Hotel Florida

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

3.77 (575 ratings by Goodreads)
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Amid the rubble of a city blasted by a civil war that many fear will cross borders and engulf Europe, the Hotel Florida on Madrid's chic Gran Via has become a haven for foreign journalists and writers. It is here that 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 a new romance; Martha Gellhorn, an ambitious young journalist hungry for love and experience, thinks she will find both with Hemingway in Spain. Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, idealistic and ground-breaking young photographers based in Paris, want to capture history in the making and are inventing moder photojournalism in the process. And Arturo Barea, chief of the Republican government's foreign press office, and Ilsa Kulcsar, his Austrian deputy, are struggling to balance truth-telling with their loyalty to their sometimes-compromised cause - a struggle that places both of their lives at risk.

Hotel Florida traces the tangled wartime destinies of these three couples - and a host of supporting characters from Antoine de Saint-Exupery to John Dos Passos - living as intensely as they had ever done, against the backdrop of a critical moment in history. Amanda Vaill has mined the raw material of unpublished letters, diaries, and reels of film - including Martha Gellhorn's personal papers and Capa and Taro's recently rediscovered 'Mexican Suitcase' negatives. The result is a narrative of love and reinvention that is, finally, a story about truth, finding it, telling it - and living it, whatever the cost.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 464 pages
  • 153 x 234 x 40mm | 858g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1 x 16 page B&W plate
  • 1408813777
  • 9781408813775
  • 1,028,108

Review quote

A highly original and beautifully written account of the intrepid - and sometimes crazy - journalists who risked everything to report on the Spanish Civil War. Amanda Vaill has produced a work that is by turns gripping and heartbreaking, and utterly compelling * Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana and A World on Fire * Reading Amanda Vaill's riveting and richly atmospheric account of their time in the Hotel Florida, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that they had also come to have the mother of all parties ... One of the greatest pleasures of Amanda Vaill's book is the skill with which she balances her material. The result is as dramatic as it is funny. She also has an unusually keen eye for the ironies of life * Daily Mail Book of the Week * Fascinating ... A valiant job of pulling together so many disparate stories into a fascinating contemporaneous narrative, of why people believed things when they did. Inevitably Hemingway has all the best lines ... Vaill does a good job of showing how this mixture of ambition and conviction drives her characters onwards ... A timely reminder that there is nothing more important than telling the truth * Daisy Goodwin, Sunday Times * Amanda Vaill's Hotel Florida: Truth, Love and Death in the Spanish Civil War is one of the best group biographies I have read in years. In early 1937 a very strange collection of people descended on a rundown Madrid hotel, including Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Kim Philby and Errol Flynn. In theory, they had come to find the truth about what was happening, but, as Vaill shows with lethal sharpness, all of them were far more at home with falsehood * John Preston, Spectator Books of the Year * Magical and meticulous ... A masterful reconstruction of one of the most tumultuous conflicts in 20th Century Europe * BBC * Beautifully written ... Vaill triumphs ... She makes the reader feel their attractive glamour, but does not flinch from revealing their preening egos. Despite the thousands of books written about the war, this succeeds in sounding fresh. Where she repeats a well-known story, she tells it in elegant and subtle prose; and remarkably, she has found new, interesting archive material, particularly on Kulcsar and Gellhorn ... Her approach makes the oft-told story vivid. And there is no dumbing-down: her depth of scholarship and organisation of material are impressive ... Vaill unashamedly focuses on individuals rather than issues. But she does not avoid the war's complex politics. She has found an original focus to bring an important story to a new generation * Independent on Sunday * Amanda Vaill has had the inspired idea of telling the story of the Spanish civil war through the eyes of three couples ... Vaill's style throughout is unusually intimate. She glides into the characters' heads and keeps up the pace with smart asides. This can make it wonderfully exciting ... Vaill's account of the tragic end of both war and her characters is shocking and wrenchingly sad * Lara Feigel, Observer * A real delight of her book is the way she evokes the colours and smells both of starving, besieged Madrid and the well-fed opulence of Valencia on the distant Mediterranean coast. Best of all are her characterisations. The life of the sparkling and adventurous Gellhorn, before and after the Spanish civil war * Guardian * Written with verve and passion, and full of drama, pathos and gossip ... A fascinating cast * Daily Telegraph * A history that reads like a novel, penned by an academic who writes like a blockbuster. A deeply revealing account of the Spanish Civil War, through the eyes of three sets of lovers: Gerda Taro and Robert Capa's stories are moving; Hemingway and Gellhorn are dislikeable but intriguing; Arturo Barea, the only Spaniard is tragic * Herald Books of the Year * It's a marvellous piece of historical writing, informed by the letters, diaries, fiction, photographs, and films of the time (much of it produced by Vaill's six protagonists), which captures the confusion, the desperation, and the heroism on display; this is history you can immerse yourself in, and knowing the war's wretched outcome lends a sense of tragic irony to events * Independent on Sunday * If you like Spain, politics or just Hemingway, this is your book * Irish Times *
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About Amanda Vaill

Amanda Vaill is the author of the bestselling Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy-A Lost Generation Love Story, which was a national bestseller and a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle Award in biography, and Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins, for which she was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship. Somewhere was made into a documentary that won both and Emmy and a Peabody award. She has also written features and criticism for a range of journals from Allure to Washington Post Book World. She lives in New York City.
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Rating details

575 ratings
3.77 out of 5 stars
5 22% (126)
4 44% (255)
3 25% (143)
2 7% (43)
1 1% (8)
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