The Marriage Portrait

by Maggie O’Farrell. The author of Hamnet, which filled in the gaps in the historical record of Shakespeare’s wife, returns with another lyrical novel focused on love, murder, and a woman forgotten by time. Very little is known about Lucrezia de Medici, except that her portrait and the mysterious circumstances of her death (possibly poisoned by her husband) inspired Robert Browning to write the famous poem, My Last Duchess. Here, O’Farrell breathes life into this history and presents the reader with a determined, talented woman rebelling against her fate. Lucrezia marries the charismatic Duke of Ferrara as a teenager, but his changeable character remains an unnerving mystery to his new wife. Until she produces an heir, her fate is uncertain. As a sense of danger increases for Lucrezia, the novel flashes back to her childhood in Florence and O’Farrell fills in the portrait of her with vivid colors.