Review: The Tavern by Marguerite Steen

tavernThe Tavern
by Marguerite Steen

Can you ever truly know someone… ?

Don Florio Conde and his wife Doña María Teresa own a small tavern in Andalucía. It’s a place where the wealthy brush shoulders with the poor, where people from all walks of life are welcomed with open arms. Yet behind the smiling faces that greet new customers hides the anger and frustration that María Teresa and her husband feel for each other. Over twenty years of marriage has left them little more than resentful strangers. She is a domineering shrew and he a submissive drunkard.

When Florio agrees to let a wealthy patron of the inn, Don Joaquín Saavedra, use their spare room for a discreet liaison with the married wife of the powerful Don Alfredo Fedriani, he dreams of the money and prestige that Don Joaquín’s trust and gratitude will bring. But when María Teresa hears of the plan, she is horrified. Unlike other taverns, she has always enforced a strict policy against allowing her rooms to be available for such improper use. Desperate to retain the tavern’s reputation for respectability, María Teresa refuses to allow the affair to be conducted under her roof. Unable to see the consequences that might result from offending such a powerful man as Don Joaquín, she manipulates events to make the room unavailable on the night.

Furious at the insult, and the lost opportunity to meet his mistress, Don Joaquín vanishes from the premises and refuses to return, taking the patronage of other wealthy customers with him. Despairing, Florio spends more and more time away from the tavern, and his wife, drowning himself in wine and letting his eye wander. Neither is a new occupation for him, but this time the girl who has caught his fancy is none other than the pretty young thing that María Teresa adores.


Once there was a tavern ran by the couple, Don Florio Conde and Maria Theresa. It looked like the Tavern had seen some better days and the husband-and-wife tandem of Florio & Maria was rocked when a patron offered an insurmountable amount of money. Florio was to eager to agree with Don Joaquin’s terms, being a voracious and greedy man as he is.

But his spouse Maria disapproved of it, after learning that their inn would soon be converted into a whorehouse once Don Joaquin brought someone else’s philandering wife into the tavern. Aggrieved and irked of the nagger, Don Joaquin made sure that the couple’s tavern would meet its downfall.

Of course, things got more complicated with the couple, with Florio all the more resorted to drinking his worries away while his wife harassed and scolded him non-stop. When a new girl became the subject of his affection, it was only a matter of time before Maria discovered his liaison and all hell broke loose.

Reading this book had been quite a ride. The characters were a pain in the butt, I couldn’t stop shaking my head everytime Florio drinks and Maria opens her mouth. I get a headache from all their quarrels. Don Joaquin, tsk, tsk, wasn’t gentlemanly at all. He thought his money could get him away with everything. Such a childish old brat. But as the reader moves along with the story, things get a little clearer and convenient in the end. I still wasn’t keen with the characters, though.


Marguerite Steen (12 May 1894 – 4 August 1975) was a British writer. Very much at home among creative people, she wrote biographies of the Terrys, of her friend Hugh Walpole, of the 18th century poet and actress (and sometime mistress to the Prince of Wales) Mary ‘Perdita’ Robinson, and of her own lover, the artist Sir William Nicholson. Her first major success was Matador (1934), for which she drew on her love of Spain, and of bullfighting. Also a best-seller on both sides of the Atlantic was her massive saga of the slave-trade and Bristol shipping, The Sun Is My Undoing (1941). She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1951. Her two volumes of autobiography, Looking Glass(1966) and Pier Glass (1968) offer some delightful views of the English creative set from the 1920s to the 1950s.


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