I have a handful of authors who belong to a select category labeled “I will read anything you write.” I find their prose irresistibly compelling, no matter the subject, no matter if the characters are likable, no matter if (gasp!) the ending is hopeful. Ann Patchett. Emily St. John Mandel. And Maggie O’Farrell.
When I read the description of her newest novel, The Marriage Portrait, I thought, I’m not sure I want to read a historical novel about a girl in Renaissance Italy, who is raised in privilege for the sole purpose of making an advantageous marriage, makes said marriage, and is dead less than a year later. You know the end before you even begin.