January 12, 2023
It is only January 10, and I have already read a book that for sure will be on my Favorite Books of 2023 list: The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell.
This is the first book I read in the new year, and it sets the standard high for my reading life this year. (An Aside: The second book was The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles and while it doesn’t surpass The Marriage Portrait, it is good, very good, indeed.)
Lucrezia is a young noble girl in 1550’s Florence, daughter of the grand duke, and she finds herself married to another duke after her older sister dies. She is intelligent, curious, an amazing artist, imaginative, active, not passive, but her role in life is to produce an heir. Her husband shows tenderness and care for her, but…
He bends at the waist and, sliding a hand around her neck, stoops and presses his lips to hers–a brief, emphatic pressure. It reminds her of her father, bringing is seal down on top of a document, marking it as his.p. 138
The characters are well-developed, as is the setting. The writing is impeccable, and as for the plot, well, I felt my heart race as I read the last few pages.
I have read other books by O’Farrell, including her memoir I Am, I Am, I Am; Seventeen Brushes with Death, and she is a writer who clearly gets better and better with each book. I remember not being excited about reading her 2020 book, Hamnet, which was about Shakespeare’s wife and young son. That was probably because as a decades ago English major and teacher, I read so much Shakespeare, but the book was a gift and all the reviews were excellent, so…. Needless to say, I loved it. Now I think I will add Hamnet to my re-read list.
Now I am reading a fun palate cleanser, Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Rayburn.
What’s your first book of 2023? I would love to know.