arie Bromar is the much-loved niece of Michel Voss, the innkeeper of The Golden Lion. She has loved Michel's son George since they were both small and she first came to live with the family. It is only because Michel Voss regards this love as an inconvenience (because he dislikes change and is used to having his own way), that he quarrels with his son; but he expresses his opposition to the idea of their union strongly enough to drive George away to Colmar, a few miles over the mountains, to live at a nearby inn and run it for the female proprietor. It is George's inability openly to express his true feelings for Marie that further leads his father into folly. Unaware of the unofficial engagement between Marie and his son, Michel encourages the oily, slick Adrian Urmand, a prosperous linen merchant from Basle, to ask for Marie's hand. And it is Marie's reluctance to accept that spurs the well-intentioned but overbearing Michel to go further than he should and insist on having his own way. Far from vacillating between two lovers as any ordinary Trollope heroine might do, Marie Bromar finds herself in a different but equally impossible situation: in love with her guardian's son, a relationship which he frowns upon, yet reluctant to disobey his wishes, although all her instincts bridle against what he wants. For Marie is in a difficult position within the inn: not quite family, certainly not a servant, but somewhere in between, with the head of the establishment acting as her parent. It is her uncle's lifelong affection and generosity towards her which finally persuades Marie to consent to a betrothal to Adrian Urmand against her will, whilst still vainly hoping for some sign of faith from George.
The novel veers from dark to light in tone, and singularly refuses to take anyone's side. The reader is invited to sympathise with Marie's plight, but also with Adrian Urmand's justifiable indignation when he discovers that a 'yes' from his beloved probably means 'no'; and also with Michel Voss's incomprehension at what he at first perceives to be wedding nerves from his niece, but quickly comes to realise is passion for another man; and even for the vacillating George Voss who, in exile over the mountain road, is tormented by the conflicting stories which reach him in a series of chinese whispers. That same road is used for the central scene in the novel, where Michel, mortified that he has totally misjudged his niece's love for his son, and stuck with the aggrieved and unlucky suitor Adrian Urmand, forces his family along the road for a dismal, damp and hilarious picnic. It is a comic setpiece, the author conducting each of the characters with their differing agendas towards an amusing conclusion.
[Published with the permission of The Trollope Society]
Last modified 2000