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 gone sour, hopes that this war will give him fresh material and a 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 foreign press office, and Ilsa Kulcsar, his Austrian deputy, struggle to balance truth-telling with loyalty to their sometimes compromised cause – an effort that places both of them at risk of their lives.

Hotel Florida traces the tangled wartime destinies of these three couples – and a host of supporting characters – against the backdrop of a critical moment in history: when, as Hemingway put it, “You could learn as much at the Hotel Florida... 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 From the raw material of unpublished letters and diaries, official documents, and recovered reels of film, Amanda Vaill has created a narrative of love and reinvention that is, finally, a story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 – maybe – living it, and what that effort costs.

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Here’s what critics and other readers have said about Hotel Florida:

“Does for 1930’s Spain what [Vaill] did for 1920’s Paris in Everybody Was So Young...illuminates a cataclysmic time and place through the lives of intriguing individuals.... History lovers will melt.

        –Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

"Moving and illuminating…Like Shakespeare, Vaill knows that history isn't written without tragedy . . If you've never cried over a biography or history, Hotel Florida might be your first weeper with an index."

        --National Post (Toronto)

“Masterful...captures heartache and obsession on a vast but intimate scale.”

--Taylor Branch, author of The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement

"Dense, readable… a vivid, well-paced story of the awfulness of war and the complex motives of those who report on it."

        -- Wall Street Journal

“A highly original and beautifully written account of the intrepid -  and sometimes crazy - journalists who risked everything to report on the Spanish Civil War... by turns gripping and heartbreaking, and utterly compelling.”

 --Amanda Foreman, author of A World On Fire and The Duchess

"Spirited and eye-opening…ripple[s] with excitement, doom, courage, betrayal, defeat, and, of course, love. Vaill’s book races forward like a novel, even as it provides a lucid account of a hugely complex and sometimes baffling war."

        --Kansas City Star

One of the best group biographies I have read in years.”

        The Spectator (UK)

“Combining a historian's meticulous research with her accomplished skills as a biographer, Amanda Vaill tells the fascinating interwoven stories of three couples -- six people, some famous and some not -- whose lives were forever changed as they fought for "the last great cause" in the Spanish Civil War.”

--Scott Donaldson, biographer of Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, and Archibald MacLeish

"Impressive. Vaill’s research [is] astonishing – wide and deep and relevant…she is eminently capable of juggling multiple stories, of making readers care about all her characters."

        --The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

“A riveting tale of politics, propaganda, and indifference, told with conviction and real heart. Don't miss it.”

        -- Brenda Wineapple, author of Ecstatic Nation and White Heat

“A wonderful, compulsively readable book that brings the extraordinary Spanish Civil War palpably to life.”

--Peter Stansky, author of Journey to the Frontier and The Unknown Orwell

“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: What Fresh Hell Is This?

"Vivid… heartbreaking… 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. "

        --Publishers Weekly

“Amanda Vaill’s new book is a stunner.  Cinematic in scope and detail, it is fully as engrossing as a novel.  Vividly written and impeccably researched, Hotel Florida animates a fascinating cast of historical figures, speaking urgently to questions of truth and betrayal that are still compelling today.  What a story!“ 

-- Mary Dearborn, author of Mistress of Modernism: The Life of Peggy Guggenheim and Mailer: A Biography

“In Hotel Florida, Amanda Vaill tell(s) the truth about three larger-than-life couples---men and women whose hot passion for one another mingled with the fiery passions of war, while love swept some to private triumph and others to private defeat. It’s a moving, powerful story---and nobody has ever told it better.”

-- Stephen Koch, author of The Breaking Point: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and the Murder of José Robles

"Magical and meticulous . . . [Hotel Florida] is a masterful reconstruction of one of the most tumultuous conflicts in 20th century Europe."

        —Jane Ciabattari,

“Brilliantly researched and filled with surprises... reminds us why the Spanish Civil War remains the defining struggle of hope and betrayal,  for activism and justice -- across so many generations. This extraordinary retelling is timely, powerful, enchanting.”

-- Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt and The Declassified Eisenhower

Hotel Florida is published in the United States by Farrar, Straus & Giroux; foreign rights have been sold in Brazil (Objectiva), Britain (Bloomsbury), China (Baijing Standway Books), France (Buchet/Chastel), Germany (Klett-Cotta),  Hungary ( (Park/Libri), Italy (Einaudi), Korea (The Book in my Life), the Netherlands (Meulenhoff), and Spain (Turner).

To order, go to any of the following websites:

Here’s a preview:

It was dangerous no matter where you went. As Delmer navigated the fresh bomb craters on the road just outside Tortosa a guard came running over to the car, waving his arms: the bridge they’d driven over in the morning, the great steel structure that Hemingway had declared as impervious to bombs as “a bottle on a string at a French fair,” had been demolished little more than an hour ago, and the only way across the swollen Ebro was on a rickety footbridge, itself severely battered by the bombardment. Soldiers were hastily laying boards along its length to reinforce it and cover the holes; trucks probably couldn’t cross it, but their car might be able to make it. The journalists decided to take the risk: the Nationalists’ Savoias could return at any minute, and the car was an easy target. Hemingway and Matthews got out and walked to lighten the load, and Delmer let in the clutch and rolled onto the bridge just behind a mule cart whose iron wheels made the boards rattle alarmingly. There was a gaping hole halfway across and they all averted their eyes so as not to see where they’d end up if the bridge gave way.

Finally they reached the other side, and found themselves in an inferno. Tortosa was still ablaze from the morning’s attacks and Delmer had to speed through streets full of burning debris to the Barcelona highway. There they had to slow down, because the road was clogged with military vehicles and fleeing civilians. Nobody found very much to say. Suddenly exhausted, Martha leaned against the car window and stared at the people they passed: an old woman cradling a chicken, a young woman clutching a canary, a mother incongruously making up her face in a small mirror. “A retreat,” Martha told herself, fighting despair, “can be braver than an attack.”

Calling All Book Groups!

Would you like Amanda to visit your book group via Skype to answer questions? Email her to set up a date; she’ll enable her Skype account for your group’s participation. Just click here.

Or would you like to have Amanda actually attend your book group in person? If you are located in Manhattan or Brooklyn, click the link to arrange for a personal visit:


Now in paperback

"Wonderful reading,” says the New York Times Book Review: “Vaill's writing is light-footed, immediate, and intimate [and her] account of the war and its voluntary witnesses validates our need for narrative in the face of atrocity – something beyond propaganda, and, at times, as necessary as food or shelter."


Also by Amanda Vaill
(click on the cover icons for more information, or to order copies)

Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy – A Lost Generation Love Story

“A marvelously readable biography... elegantly written.”
    -- Brooke Allen, New York Times Book Review (front page)

A New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award in biography, Everybody Was So Young is a real-life Tender Is the Night: the story of two American expatriates who pursued the life of art and the art of living in Paris and the Riviera in the 1920’s. Hailed as “enthralling and deeply moving” (London Observerˆ), “perceptive, beautifully written and exhaustively researched” (San Francisco Chronicle), Everybody Was So Young is now available as an e-book in all formats as well as in paperback. The e-book display art features watercolors of Sara and Gerald Murphy on their yacht Weatherbird, painted by their friend Fernand Léger.

Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins

“Jerome Robbins is the great subject of American theatrical biography.... I can’t imagine a better book about Robbins ever being written.”
    -- Terry Teachout, chief drama critic of The Wall Street Journal

The complicated life and exuberant art of the creator of West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Dances at a Gathering, Afternoon of a Faun, and much more, re-created through his candid and complete personal papers, as well as hundreds of interviews. Publishers Weekly called Somewhere “a critically sophisticated biography that’s as compulsively readable as a novel.”

Seaman Schepps: A Century of American Jewelry Design (with Janet Zapata and David Biehl) 

From Deco to the Sixties, the life and work of a revolutionary designer who changed the way American women thought about 
jewelry, and themselves.

Plus essays in the following:

The Beatles Are Here!, edited by Penelope Rowlands, an anthology exploring – 50 years after the fact – the emotional impact of of the Fab Four’s first American appearance. Just published.

Making It New: The Art and Style of Gerald and Sara Murphy, edited by Deborah Rothschild

Picasso et les femmes, edited by Ingrid Mössinger

O. Henry: Selected Stories, edited by Amanda Vaill