Book Reviews

Book Review: The Marriage Portrait

By Maggie O’Farrell

Published September 2022

352 Pages

Lucrezia de’Medici, third daughter of the Grand Duke of Florence, lived a short, turbulent, and nearly forgotten life.  Married at a very early age to the Duke of Ferraro, Moderno, and Reggio, she died at the age of sixteen.  The official account states that she died of “putrid fever” and considering the medical knowledge of the Renaissance, that could have been just about anything (no, I have not done any additional research into it).  

In the book, the author posits that she was murdered for not providing an heir; that her husband was a man of shifting, mercurial moods and that Lucrezia was ill prepared for life in his court.

“The Marriage Portrait” interpreted by Wombo Dream

While the author’s notes admits that many historical facts were changed to fit the narrative (a common practice in historical fiction), the book is replete with sumptuous details of the period.  Honestly, the settings are nothing short of immersive.  Tracing Lucrezia from her early life up until her death, the author draws a vivid portrait of a spirited girl whose curiosity and zeal for life often got the better of her and bucked against the restraints placed on women of her station.

The book is a pleasure to read and reminded me a lot of Philippa Gregory’s writing for the well researched historical interpretation and a glimpse at life in a gilded cage.  However, given that Lucretia lived a short life and had no agency (not her fault, she simply did not have any agency and there’s no room for interpretation there), the pacing was slow and I found myself skimming forward fairly often.  The best bits, in my opinion, were the relationships that Lucrezia had with people outside of the royal family and the author’s interpretation of the end of her life.  Who knows?  It might have actually happened like that.

An immersive read if a bit slow.  

3.5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐+

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

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