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From the raw material of unpublished letters and diaries, official documents, and recovered reels of film, Amanda Vaill has created a narrative of love and reinvention that is, finally, a story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.
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Gripping Character Driven History
A strange hybrid of history and fiction
The story of the Spanish Civil War is fascinating and terrifying at the same time. This is an interesting take based around some of the 'superstar' photographers and writers who covered the hope and the horror including Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn.
It is hugely informative on the itinerant lives of many young Europeans in the 20s and 30s and a timely reminder of a world where the idea of socialism did not seem like a just a pipe dream, but a liveable reality.
I did not know about Robert Kapa or Gerda Taro before this book and they come across as a charismatic and fascinating pair. I would certainly like to learn more about them.
I also enjoyed having my personal prejudice further confirmed that, great writer though he was, Hemingway was an entirely self-involved, s**t with a cavalier attitude to the lives of others, an arrogance that masked his own crippling insecurity and an unhealthy obsession with killing animals!
This is a riveting, engaging and tragic story. The lives of the ambitious but generally optimistic and driven young people tied up in the way that Spain's conflict devoured the country and set the spark that would later engulf all of Europe.
Christopher Kipiniak's narration was generally clear. Most of the speech is reported, so he did not need to characterise the voices much, he generally steered clear of accents and voices. The delivery was more akin to that of a straight history book than a fiction.
My biggest criticism of his work in this case is some gratuitous mispronunciation that was not picked up either by the performer or his producer - the name Cockburn for example is pronounced Co-Burn. There was also occasionally a feeling that the narrator was reading paragraphs for the first time, as there was random and slightly irritating mispronunciation of common words.
The narrator also read with extreme caution, now I would agree that a slow reader is better than one who gabbles but in this case I think that the momentum of the story might have been better suited to a less lugubrious reading.
No, there was too much information and anyway, it is a long book!
I would recommend this book for anyone looking to deepen their knowledge of a fascinating part of European history that still affects the world so much today. It is a cracking story, well written and informative. It is slightly let down by the narration, but still very much worth a listen.