Author Ernest Hemingway with wife Martha Gellhorn (left) chatting with actress Ingrid Bergman outside Jack’s Restaurant where they will discuss Bergman’s possible role as Maria in the movie version of Hemingway’s novel “For Whom The Bells Toll.”
Amanda Vaill isn’t after anything as quixotic as trying to "set the record straight” on the Spanish Civil War; instead, she delves deeply into the lives of three couples whose chronicling of the war shaped public perception. Some of her subjects — like Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn and war photographer Robert Capa — are famous; others, like photographer Gerda Taro and Spanish journalist Arturo Barea, should be better known. Their paths crossed in Spain and all six spent time in the Hotel Florida, “a ten-story marble-clad jewel box” in Madrid, where journalists, diplomats, prostitutes, pilots and spies drank together and dived for cover as bombs whistled over the city at night. Ultimately, what Vaill seems to be mulling over in this book is the age-old question of what war does to people: whether it brings out altruism or naked self-interest. Spoiler alert: In Vaill’s account Hemingway fails the sniff test.