I love historic fiction. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again – one of the main reasons why I love good historic fiction is because it educates me as well as engages me. And The Last Train To Key West, due to be published on 16th June 2020 has done just that.
Over the past two years Chanel Cleeton has become one of my favourite authors. Her previous two novels Next Year in Havana (a Reese Witherspoon book club pick) and When We Left Cuba are powerful portrayals of the impact 1959 Cuban revolution that still affects lives today. As well as being an amazing storyteller, one of the reasons why I love Chanel Cleeton’s books so much is because they are packed with history and political intrigue.
Cuban political history is a factor in the story of The Last Train To Key West as it touches on the impact of the 1933 Cuban Revolution. This is explored through the character of Cuban newlywed Mirta Perez.
However The Last Train To Key West is a slight departure for Cleeton as the crux of the novel focuses on the 1935 Labor Day hurricane that hit the Florida Keys. For me what makes this new novel so powerful is that yet again Chanel Cleeton refuses to shy away from politics and social justice issues. The hurricane was one of the deadliest storms to devastate the United States. However its impact is tragically linked to the camps occupied by World War I veterans who were sent to the Keys to work on a new highway.
They didn’t want us in Washington, causing trouble, reminding the American public – the voting public – that we weren’t taken care of, that the government hadn’t exactly lived up to its promises. They probably thought the Keys were far enough away to send us so everyone would forget about us.
The historic weekend is told from the point of view of Mirta, as well as pregnant Helen Berner, a native to Key West and Elizabeth Preston, a New Yorker on a very personal quest to the veteran camps. Each of these women have their own dramatic back story and narrative which portray the social justice challenges of the time. Some of these challenges have sadly proved to be timeless.
All three of Chanel Cleeton’s novels revolving around the Perez women are unique, powerful and gripping. When I was offered an advance copy of The Last Train To Key West I couldn’t believe my luck. I’m very happy to say it didn’t disappoint. 🙂
Thank you yet again Chanel Cleeton for engaging and educating me with your fantastic storytelling. Thank you also to Berkley Publishing and NetGalley for my advance copy.
The Last Train To Key West is published on 16th June 2020.
Happy reading everyone! 🙂