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September 2022 Adult Top Picks

The Marriage Portrait
By (author): Maggie O'Farrell
Maggie O'Farrell


Knopf Canada



Product Form:



General / adult
Sep 06, 2022
$34.00 CAD


9.55in x 6.3 x 1.28 in | 1.38 lb

Page Count:

352 pages
Knopf Random Vintage Canada
Knopf Canada
FICTION / Literary


The author of award-winning Hamnet brings the world of Renaissance Italy to jewel-bright life in this unforgettable fictional portrait of the captivating young duchess Lucrezia de’ Medici as she makes her way in a troubled court.

“I could not stop reading this incredible true story.” —Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club December ’22 Pick)

“O’Farrell pulls out little threads of historical detail to weave this story of a precocious girl sensitive to the contradictions of her station…You may know the history, and you may think you know what’s coming, but don’t be so sure.” —The Washington Post

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.

Story Locale: Renaissance Italy

    HAMNET: O’Farrell’s award-winning novel was the literary sensation of the year, named a Best Book of 2020 by The New York Times, The Sunday Times, the Guardian, NPR, and the Washington Post, among others. A smashing success and perfect platform for this thrilling new work. 

    HISTORICAL FICTION: Once again O’Farrell is returning to the milieu in which she established herself as a household name: historical fiction, and the irresistible backdrop of 16th century Europe and the Italian Renaissance.  

    THE MEDICIS: The great families of Europe—like the Royal Family of England, which delivered such a massive audience to the television phenomenon The Crown—are a perennial in historical fiction. Never has there been a more thrilling pairing of author and period.  

    SENSATIONAL REVIEWS, MEDIA OPPORTUNITIES: O’Farrell will receive the most prominent coverage and attention—her star in North America is just beginning its ascent.

MAGGIE O’FARRELL was born in Northern Ireland in 1972 and grew up in Wales and Scotland. She has worked as a waitress, chambermaid, bike messenger, teacher, arts administrator, journalist (in Hong Kong and London), and as the deputy literary editor of The Independent on Sunday. Her books include Hamnet (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award); After You’d Gone (winner of the Betty Trask Award); The Distance Between Us (winner of a Somerset Maugham Award); and Instructions for a Heatwave. She lives in London.

Author Residence: London, UK

Author Hometown: Ireland

“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

“Evocative and spellbinding…. With The Marriage Portrait …O’Farrell hasn’t just produced another magnificently transporting page-turner. She has given us an exhilarating, devastating look at women’s captivity, creativity and ultimately, rebellion in a world run by some very cruel men…. O’Farrell just seems to be getting better and better.” iNews (UK)

“Finely written and vividly imagined, it is far from being simplistic, but there is an engaging simplicity to it that makes it feel not quite like a grown-up novel. Rather, it is a very good one to be read, as publishers used to say, by ‘children of all ages.’” The Guardian

“Maggie O’Farrell is a writer who I feel is never really given the adjectives she deserves: ingenious, inventive, humane, wry, truthful. This novel is better than her last novel: may the next be so too.” The Scotsman

“Evocative and moving. . . . In O’Farrell’s hands (as with her 2020 bestseller Hamnet), historical detail comes alive.” The Spectator

“A perceptive writer whose sentences…have real poetic cadence.” —The Guardian

“As always, [O’Farrell’s] prose is beautiful, her characters finely drawn, her story wonderfully surprising.” —Tampa Bay Times

“One of the most exciting novelists alive.”The Washington Post

“A beautifully-written and compelling work of historical fiction.” —Entertainment Focus

“[A] poetically written, multilayered novel…O’Farrell creates another mesmerizing portrait of a Renaissance-era woman whose life is shrouded in mystery… Historical-fiction readers will love the cultural details, while Lucrezia’s plight speaks to modern themes of gaslighting and women’s agency…O’Farrell shines at instilling elegantly described scenes with human feeling, such as Lucrezia’s wedding preparations and her sense of inner strength while viewing the sunrise transform the sky at Alfonso’s country villa. The author proves equally skilled at evoking suspense.” —Booklist [starred review]

“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]

“A riveting tale about one woman’s fight for autonomy.” —Real Simple

“[O’Farrell’s] sparkling language and astonishing descriptive powers chart…Lucrezia’s destruction, in parallel to the creation of the work of art that will grant her a similar immortality, an immortality renewed by this captivating novel.” —Hot Press

“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

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