The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

The Marriage Portrait was kindly sent to me by a follower on social media who said they thought the front cover was great and sounded quite interesting. It covers the story of Lucrezia who, at the age of 16 is married off to Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso.

the marriage portrait by maggie o'farrell book review

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It tells the story of Lucrezia’s time with Alfonso as she grows to know him more and suspect he may have dark intentions that she wasn’t initially aware of. He has a portrait commissioned of her to “celebrate their marriage”, however, after the time they’ve spent with each other, she’s not quite sure if that is the portraits real intention.

The Marriage Portrait plot – 4/5

I’ll be honest right off the bat, The Marriage Portrait really lacked any convincing plot moments. I’m not suggesting it should have plot twists, action scenes or massive cliff-hangers but there was simply very few moments where I felt like things were “getting good”. In fact, I got to the end and felt like there was still some book to read. I wanted more from it.

O’Farrell’s writing is lovely enough, her prose is composed and she writes in a way that almost felt poetic at times, but this didn’t necessarily do enough for me for it to make up for the very mundane storyline.

This may appeal to those who know more of the poem on which it’s based or like reading about this time period and gentrification of Italy during the 1500s however.

The Marriage Portrait characters – 4.25/5

On a slightly better note, I did find the characters in The Marriage Portrait slightly more compelling than the plot. I found Lucrezia herself to have enough imagination and intrigue to be an enjoyable protagonist and there’s enough diversity in the other characters that accompany the story for me to remember them.

They aren’t going to blow your socks off like some of the greatest written characters in literature but they will certainly help immerse you into a world that otherwise isn’t particularly interesting to be immersed in.

The Marriage Portrait final rating – 4/5

I can sit here and appreciate why people enjoy The Marriage Portrait and I have a lot of respect for the concept and for O’Farrell’s writing. Additionally, the characters were well-defined enough to keep you intrigued throughout and help immerse you into the world and time period. However, I just didn’t enjoy the story that much and found myself wanting more in a bad way at the end. The plot never really picked up enough for me, it felt quite monotonous and mundane and it’s not particularly a subject I’m interested in. This might be a great book for many, but unfortunately The Marriage Portrait just wasn’t my cup of tea.

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