The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell Reviewed by Maddy Evans

Filling in the blanks of another historical mystery, Maggie O’Farrell’s The Marriage Portrait gives voice to the tragic life of a sixteenth century teenager. This time, she tells the tale of Lucrezia de’ Medici – the daughter of Cosimo, Duke of Florence – destined to a dynastic marriage at just 16 which would end, within a year, in her death. This is no spoiler – the menace of the novel begins on the first page, as Lucrezia realises her husband will murder her that night.

The ensuing chapters recount her childhood, the charming and dangerous characters that inhabit it, and a claustrophobia complemented by the sparse prose that O’Farrell brilliantly employs. Immensely sensorial, visual storytelling blends the fantastical and boundless mind of its teenage protagonist as she makes sense of a world that she has no choice but to try and survive in.

Simplistic yet engaging, layered with myth, legend and threat, this novel echoes O’Farrell’s earlier explorations of untold history through the suffocating sixteenth century Italian court – in all of its extravagance and constriction.