Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Read With Us: The Marriage Portrait

Our fall Read With Us book is entitled The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell, and I think it's a fascinating book inspired by a poem describing a painting portraying a young woman who actually lived in 16th-century Italy. The idea for Hamnet was one that O'Farrell had in mind for many years, but she waited until her own son was past the age Hamnet was when he died. But in February 2020, she was writing about Robert Browning's poem, "My Last Duchess". She looked up the Duchess and downloaded a portrait of Lucrezia de’ Medici, the young woman who was married to the Duke of Ferrara when she was a teenager in the mid-16th century. 

"Just before lockdown began in the spring of 2020, I came across a small oil painting of Lucrezia de’ Medici, attributed to the studio of Renaissance artist Agnolo Bronzino. The portrait shows her against a dark background, in a black mourning dress, adorned with costly jewellery, one hand raised to her throat. What mesmerised me was the expression on her face: she looks anxious, her eyes filled with apprehension. She looked, to me, very much like someone who had something she wanted to say. I knew as soon as I saw her that I had my next novel, that I wanted to imagine the story she might have wanted to tell."

So why do I think you should read The Marriage Portrait? So you can be immersed in 16th-century Italy and in the intriguing story that Maggie O' Farrell has imagined and written about Lucrezia de’ Medici, and judge for yourself if this is the story that Lucrezia might have wanted to tell. 

This is what Carole had to say about the book last week, and Kym will be talking more about the book next Tuesday. Discussion day for The Marriage Portrait is scheduled for January 10, 2023, at 7:00 pm Eastern time, so mark your calendars. We'll ask questions on our blogs that day and then host the always fun, educational, and entertaining Zoom discussion.

We do hope you'll Read With Us!


  1. It's such a fascinating story -- with a rich background. And . . . that poem! I really enjoyed the book, and can't wait to discuss it with everyone.

  2. I am looking forward to reading this book if I ever get my hands on it!

  3. I have dramatically moved up on the library wait list (yay!) so I hope to be reading this SOON!

  4. I am so looking forward to reading this! I think I'm going to love it (unlike Mungo - LOL). It was easily available at my library a month or so ago but I held off - not wanting to read it too far in advance of our discussion...but I guess I'd best check again and see what the availability is!

  5. Very much looking forward to this one -- and I promise to come to the discussion with visual aids!

  6. Maggie O'Farrell creates such rich and absorbing settings, and this one is no exception!

  7. I'm on the hold list at the library so just waiting for it to come in.

    1. I hope your turn in the queue comes up soon (but there is plenty of time before our discussion in January)!

  8. I hope to join you if my reading time permits. I enjoyed Hamnet and The Marriage Portrait is on my list of books to read.


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