Hotel Florida

Hotel Florida

Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War

By Amanda Vaill

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374172992, 464pp.

Publication Date: April 22, 2014

Description

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 the Spanish government's 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.
Beginning with the cloak-and-dagger plot that precipitated the first gunshots of the war and moving forward month by month to the end of the conflict. "Hotel Florida" traces the tangled and disparate wartime destinies of these three couples against the backdrop of a critical moment in history: a moment that called forth both the best and the worst of those caught up in it. In this noir landscape of spies, soldiers, revolutionaries, and artists, the shadow line between truth and falsehood sometimes became faint indeed your friend could be your enemy and honesty could get you (or someone else) killed.
Years later, Hemingway would say, "It is very dangerous to write the truth in war, and the truth is very dangerous to come by." In "Hotel Florida, "from the raw material of unpublished letters and diaries, official documents, and recovered reels of film, the celebrated biographer Amanda Vaill has created a narrative of love and reinvention that is, finally, a story about truth: finding it, telling it, and living it whatever the cost.

*INCLUDES 16 PAGES OF BLACK-AND-WHITE PHOTOGRAPHS.



About the Author
Amanda Vaill, formerly executive editor at Viking Penguin, is now a full-time writer and critic whose work has appeared in Esquire, GQ, New York, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. She lives in New York.


Praise For Hotel Florida

"Magical and meticulous . . . [Hotel Florida] is a masterful reconstruction of one of the most tumultuous conflicts in 20th Century Europe." —Jane Ciabattari, BBC.com

"[An] energetic group biography . . . [Vaill] is a diligent researcher and a spirited writer who confidently inhabits and channels her historical characters. Her set pieces are numerous and well turned." —Charles Trueheart, The American Scholar

"Beautifully told, Vaill’s story captures the timeless immediacy of warfront reporting with the universal struggle to stay in love." —Publishers Weekly

"[Vaill’s] gift for character portrayal keeps [Hotel Florida] moving along . . . It is bound to be popular with general readers of 20th-century history." —Library Journal

"War, sex, friendship, betrayal, celebrity, rivalry, jealousy, idealism, foolishness and foppery—all this and more gather in the lobby of Madrid’s Hotel Florida." —Kirkus Reviews

"Hotel Florida gathers literary giants among the international volunteers for Spain’s civil war of everyday dreamers. In this masterful narrative, with unfailing judgment and artistry, Amanda Vaill captures heartache and obsession on a vast but intimate scale before the era of national-security states." —Taylor Branch, author of The King Years

"A highly original, beautifully written, and utterly compelling account, by turns gripping and heartbreaking, of the intrepid—and sometimes crazy—journalists who risked everything to report on the Spanish Civil War." —Amanda Foreman, author of The Duchess

"Combining a historian’s meticulous research with her accomplished skills as a biographer, in Hotel Florida Amanda Vaill tells the fascinating interwoven stories of six people whose lives were forever changed as they fought for ‘the last great cause.’" —Scott Donaldson, author of Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald

"A stunner—cinematic in scope and detail, and speaking urgently to questions of truth and betrayal that are still compelling today." —Mary Dearborn, author of Mistress of Modernism

"The tragedy of the Spanish Civil War has never quite emerged from the fog of its own propaganda. In Hotel Florida, Amanda Vaill has dispelled that fog at last by telling the truth about three larger-than-life couples—men and women whose passion for one another mingled with the passions of war. It’s a moving, powerful story—and nobody has ever told it better." —Stephen Koch, author of The Breaking Point

"Hotel Florida is a riveting tale of politics, propaganda, and indifference, told with conviction and real heart." —Brenda Wineapple, author of Ecstatic Nation

"Not since Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia has there been so shattering a picture of the Spanish Civil War. A magisterial work of biography and history, Hotel Florida recounts a heartbreaking story with precision and passion. Page after page, Amanda Vaill writes scenes you will never forget." —Marion Meade, author of Dorothy Parker

"Timely, powerful, enchanting. Amanda Vaill’s compelling heroes, their allies and enemies, remind us why the Spanish Civil War remains the defining struggle of hope and betrayal, for activism and justice—across so many generations." —Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt



Praise for Everybody Was So Young

“A marvelously readable biography . . . Elegantly written.” —Brooke Allen, The New York Times Book Review

Praise for Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins

“I can’t imagine a better book about Robbins ever being written.” —Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal


NPR
Monday, May 5, 2014

Biographer Amanda Vaill's new book delves deeply into the lives of journalists like Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, whose documenting of the war helped shape public perception. More at NPR.org

NPR Audio Player Requires Flash Upgrade: Please upgrade your plug-in to view this content.