From the author of the breakout New York Times best seller Hamnet—winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award—an electrifying new novel set in Renaissance Italy, and centering on the captivating young duchess Lucrezia de Medici.
 
Florence, the 1550s. Lucrezia, third daughter of the grand duke, is comfortable with her obscure place in the palazzo: free to wonder at its treasures, observe its clandestine workings, and to devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to the ruler of Ferrara, Moderna and Regio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: the duke is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father just as quick to accept on her behalf.
 
Having barely left girlhood behind, Lucrezia must now make her way in a troubled court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her new husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appeared to be before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?
 
As Lucrezia sits in constricting finery for a painting intended to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court’s eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferranese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, the new duchess’s future hangs entirely in the balance.
 
Full of the drama and verve with which she illuminated the Shakespearean canvas of Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell brings the world of Renaissance Italy to jewel-bright life, and offers an unforgettable portrait of a resilient young woman’s battle for her very survival.

Cover image: © Alinari Archives / Raffaello Bencini / Art Resource, NY
“A vivid depiction of the harsh manners and rigid expectations for women within ducal courts in 16th-century Italy . . . O’Farrell is a marvelous stylist, and The Marriage Portrait is full of the same kinds of intense details that made Hamnet come alive. Her characters are captivating and believable, and the landscape of Renaissance Italy is a veritable gift to the senses, so powerfully does O’Farrell evoke the sights, sounds and smells of forest, castle and barnyard.” BookPage, [starred review]

“Finely detailed. . . . This beguiling tale of power, politics and one woman’s fight for agency is yet another masterpiece by the author of Hamnet.The Globe and Mail

“Lush, provocative . . . A captivating portrait of a woman attempting to free herself from a golden cage. Fans of the accomplished Hamnet won’t be disappointed by this formidable outing.” —Publishers Weekly [starred review]

“A compelling portrait of a young woman out of step with her times . . . a vivid portrait of a turbulent age and a vibrant heroine.” Kirkus Reviews