Hotel Florida : Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War

Hotel Florida : Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War

Book - 2014
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"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 From the raw material of unpublished letters and diaries, official documents, and recovered reels of film, Amanda Vaill has created a narrative of love and reinvention that is, finally, a story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"
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014
Edition: First Edition
ISBN: 9780374172992
Branch Call Number: 946.081 VAILL
Characteristics: xxiv, 436 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Aug 06, 2018

In her author's note, she notes "Hotel Florida is a narrative, not an academic analysis". However, as the lengthy notes at the end of the book show, this is a heavily researched book, steeped in the sources. The linchpin of her narrative is the once-deluxe Hotel Florida, a hotel in Madrid, frequented by government figures and journalists. The six main real-life 'characters' of her book all stay there at one time or another: writer Ernest Hemingway and journalist Martha Gellhorn, war photographer Robert Capa and Gerda Taro (you can see some of their photographs here) , and press officers/censors/propagandists Arturo Barea and Isla Kulscar. She draws on diaries, letters and the published works of her characters.
...Although she focuses on these three couples, who to a certain extent sweep across the fighting as observers rather than participants, Vaill does not let the reader forget that this is an actual war with bombings and many, many deaths.
... While 'narrative' in tone, it is not novelistic as such, but more a group biography told through a kaleidoscopic lens. I feel that I came away with a much better understanding of the Spanish Civil War- at least, from the republican side.

For my complete review, see

Jan 05, 2015

A really interesting account which demanded a bit of concentration and slow reading: but then I was pretty ignorant of many of the facts of the Spanish Civil War - less so now! The linear structure feeds off the developing story of each couple and the disastrous progress of the war - it was never less than absorbing. There's an old-fashioned commitment to research and history in this book that I really liked.

ChristchurchLib May 12, 2014

"In 1936 Madrid, six people—writer Ernest Hemingway, novice journalist Martha Gellhorn, photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, foreign press office chief Arturo Barea and his Austrian deputy Ilsa Kulcsar—are torn between truth-telling and loyalty during a critical moment in history." History and Current Events May 2014 newsletter

BCD2013 May 12, 2014

NYPL Staff Pick
Vaill follows the lives, loves, betrayals and rivalries of six journalists covering the Spanish Civil War: Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gelhorn, Robert Capa, Gerta Pohorylle, Arturo Barea and Ilsa Kucsar. With cameo appearances by John Dos Passos, Stephen Spender and George Orwell, this book captures the high drama and charged atmosphere of 1930s Spain.
- Wayne Roylance


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