Hotel Florida Truth, love, and death in the Spanish Civil War

Amanda Vaill

Book - 2014

"A spellbinding story of love amid the devastation of the Spanish Civil War Madrid, 1936. In a city blasted by a civil war that many fear will cross borders and engulf Europe--a conflict one writer will call "the decisive thing of the century"--six people meet and find their lives changed forever. Ernest Hemingway, his career stalled, his marriage sour, hopes that this war will give him fresh material and new romance; Martha Gellhorn, an ambitious novice journalist hungry for love... and experience, thinks she will find both with Hemingway in Spain. Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, idealistic young photographers based in Paris, want to capture history in the making and are inventing modern photojournalism in the process. And Arturo Barea, chief of Madrid's loyalist foreign press office, and Ilsa Kulcsar, his Austrian deputy, are struggling to balance truth-telling with loyalty to their sometimes compromised cause--a struggle that places both of them in peril. Hotel Florida traces the tangled wartime destinies of these three couples against the backdrop of a critical moment in history. As Hemingway put it, "You could learn as much at the Hotel Florida in those years as you could anywhere in the world." From the raw material of unpublished letters and diaries, official documents, and recovered reels of film, Amanda Vaill has created a narrative of love and reinvention that is, finally, a story about truth: finding it out, telling it, and living it--whatever the cost"--

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 946.081/Vaill Checked In
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2014.
First edition
Physical Description
xxiv, 436 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages [367]-414) and index.
Main Author
Amanda Vaill (author)
  • "They are here for their lives"
  • "You never hear the one that hits you"
  • "La Despedida".
Review by New York Times Review

IN THE KINGDOM OF ICE: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette, by Hampton Sides. (Anchor, $16.95.) In June 1881, two years into its Arctic expedition, the U.S.S. Jeannette's hull was crushed by ice, forcing the commander, George Washington De Long (1844-81), and his 32-man crew to abandon ship 1,000 miles north of Siberia. Sides's first-rate narrative recounts the horrors (crude amputations, madness, starvation) in the crew's desperate struggle to survive. LOVERS AT THE CHAMELEON CLUB, PARIS 1932, by Francine Prose. (Harper Perennial, $15.99.) Told in a kaleidoscope of voices and inspired by a 1932 Brassai photograph of a lesbian couple at a Paris nightclub, Prose's novel of love, cross-dressing and espionage centers on a French cabaret performer and racecar driver who betrays her country to the Nazis. JOHN WAYNE: The Life and Legend, by Scott Eyman. (Simon & Schuster, $18.) More than one of Hollywood's most famous actors, Wayne (1907-79) was, and still is, a symbol of America itself: strong, forthright, ready to defend the homestead. Eyman goes behind the screen persona to reveal a man who was exuberant, guileless, even strangely innocent. THE VACATIONERS, by Emma Straub. (Riverhead, $16.) Straub's novel follows a well-heeled Manhattan family, the Posts, and their friends on a two-week vacation in Majorca. It's supposed to be a time of celebration - there's a 35th wedding anniversary, for starters - but their idyll is upended as secrets and rivalries come to light. "For those unable to jet off to a Spanish island this summer, reading 'The Vacationers' may be the next-best thing," Margo Rabb said in the Book Review. SUPREME CITY: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America, by Donald L. Miller. (Simon & Schuster, $19.99.) This entertaining history is led by an astonishing cast of characters, including Walter Chrysler and Duke Ellington, who helped turn 1920s New York into the world capital of culture and commerce. In SO WE READ ON: How "The Great Gatsby" Came to Be and Why It Endures (Back Bay/Little, Brown, $16), Maureen Corrigan offers fresh perspectives on the Jazz Age novel's debt to noir and its profound commentaries on themes of race, class and gender. COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI AND HIS YEARS OF PILGRIMAGE, by Haruki Murakami. Translated by Philip Gabriel. (Vintage International, $15.95.) "I've always seen myself as an empty person, lacking color and identity," says Murakami's forlorn hero, a 36-year-old engineer in Tokyo who embarks on a series of reunions in the hopes of understanding why his tight-knit circle of high school friends suddenly shunned him years earlier. HOTEL FLORIDA: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War, by Amanda Vaill. (Picador, $20.) Against the backdrop of a critical moment in history, Vaill traces the tangled wartime destinies of three couples: the bright young photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, the writers Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, and the devoted press officers Arturo Barea and Ilsa Kulcsar. ?

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [May 31, 2015] Review by Booklist Review

As if civil war wasn't torturous enough, the Spanish Civil War had the misfortune to become entangled in larger global issues of ideology on the eve of WWII. That subtext added to the complexity of deciphering who was friend or foe as Francisco Franco overthrew the government and leftist rebels fought back. Thousands of miles away, Ernest Hemingway saw the war as a way to revive a flagging career and get back his zest. Martha Gelhorn, an ambitious young journalist, also saw a career opportunity and a chance to make a lover of Hemingway. In Paris, Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, lovers and idealistic photographers, saw a chance to capture history in the infancy of photojournalism. Arturo Barea and Ilsa Kulcsar were press officers torn between telling the truth and struggling to support their crumbling cause. Vaill taps unpublished letters and diaries as well as official documents to bring intimacy and immediacy to a new look at the war from the perspective of three couples whose paths crossed. This is high drama and an assemblage of characters uniquely suited to appreciate and record it.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2014 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

During Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, American reporters Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn blustered around with a sometimes daring, often obnoxious self-confidence in their separate quests to get the latest scoops from the front. Vaill (Everybody Was So Young) combines their professional and personal stories with those of their European colleagues, partners Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, and the Madrid Foreign Press Office's Arturo Barea and Ilsa Kulcsar. Mentioned only rarely, the formerly sumptuous Hotel Florida served as a Madrid base, allowing the courageous, ambitious journalists to interact with Barea and Kulcsar, who convinced their superiors to cease censoring the journalists' reports. Vaill vividly recounts specific scenes of dying Spanish soldiers and citizens captured photographically by the journalists as well as deftly describing how Gellhorn insinuated herself into Hemingway's marriage. Memorably, Capa and Taro's heartbreaking relationship results in insightful photographs and top-notch reporting while Spanish native Barea and Austrian Kulcsar maintain their dignity even as they flee nearly penniless from Madrid, each suddenly without a country. Beautifully told, Vaill's story captures the timeless immediacy of warfront reporting with the universal struggle to stay in love, just before the Nazis permanently changed the European landscape. 16p. b&w illus. Agent: Eric Simonoff, William Morris Endeavor. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

The tragic Spanish Civil War (1936-39) began as a rebellion of the military against the elected government and became a rehearsal for world war. The Nazis supplied Gen. Francisco Franco's Nationalists with bomber planes while Soviet Russia armed the Loyalists, defending the Spanish Republic. In the midst of this, left-leaning journalists and photographers flocked to besieged Madrid's Hotel Florida to report on the Loyalist fight against Fascism. Popular biographer Vaill (Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy-a Lost Generation Love Story) here follows three leftist couples caught up in the heroic but doomed Loyalist cause. Most prominent are literary lion -Ernest -Hemingway and his new girlfriend, reporter Martha Gellhorn. Their ego-driven journalism offers some comic relief (i.e., celebrity writers slumming near the front). Vaill goes easier on the less glamorous anti-fascists, e.g., photographer Robert Capa and his partner, Gerda Taro. The only Spaniard in the bunch is writer Arturo Barea, who managed the Madrid press office with Viennese Ilsa Kulcsar. All of them romanticized the Loyalist cause while ignoring its brutal Soviet leadership. A victory by either side would in fact be dangerous for Spain. Vaill mines memoirs of the period for her gossipy popular history, full of set-piece scenes that include the thoughts and feelings of characters (but there's no invented dialog). Her gift for character portrayal keeps the book moving along, particularly with such fleeting figures as novelists John Dos Passos and Josephine Herbst. VERDICT The kind of history that readers will say "reads like a novel." It is bound to be popular with general readers of 20th-century history. [See Prepub Alert, 11/1/13.]-Stewart Desmond, New York (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

Vaill (Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins, 2006, etc.) follows a handful of characters (some are celebrities, some not) through the Spanish Civil War. Subdividing her chapters by months, the author sets herself a difficult task: chasing Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Arturo Barea, Ilsa Kulcsar, Endre Friedmann (aka Robert Capa) and Gerta Pohorylle through the political and military chaos in Spain and elsewhere. Among the many popping up for cameos are Stephen Spender, Eric Blair (George Orwell) and John Dos Passos. Although it will be difficult for readers to turn their eyes away from the power couple (Hemingway and Gellhorn), Vaill does a good job of getting us deeply interested in the lives, experiences and, sadly, the deaths of some of the others. It helps her cause, too, that she elected to portray Hemingway in the most unflattering (and deserved?) light. We see his pettiness and his professional jealousy; we watch him swinging away at people in bars. Early in the conflict, we also see Capa and other photographers staging acting scenes (including, in a way, his famous image of a wounded warrior in midfall on a Spanish hillside) and Gellhorn fabricating a story about a lynching in the American South. It was certainly a different time in journalism. Vaill shows us images of incredible courageespecially Capa'sand political intrigue (the Russians were especially perfidiousand Stalin's reeking presence) and the absolute confusion that reigned. (The truth concealed itself quite well.) She also points us toward Hitler, and we witness his invasion of Austria and his designs on Czechoslovakia. A touching epilogue records the deaths of all her principals. War, sex, friendship, betrayal, celebrity, rivalry, jealousy, idealism, foolishness and fopperyall this and more gather in the lobby of Madrid's Hotel Florida.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.