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Florida Through the Years

In January, when Sarasota fills up with new homeowners, winter residents and tourists, I start thinking about the Florida of old. Those new to our state, or those just passing through, are often looking for a novel that will give them a sense of place. And, Florida is a wonderful place that is full of fiction.

Here are five novels of historical fiction that will open your eyes to the Florida of old…be it lush and lovely, or uncomfortable to remember.

A Land Remembered by Patrick Smith

A Land Remembered is the bestselling novel by Patrick Smith that tells the story of three generations of the MacIvey family. Starting in1858, the MacIvey's rise from a dirt-poor life to that of wealthy real estate tycoons in 1968. It's a sweeping story of rich, rugged Florida history. If you love Florida, you will love this book!

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

While Florida may be known as a vacation haven, books set in Florida also tackle the darker side of the state. The novel takes place at a juvenile reform “school” where abuses are part of daily life, and our main character, Elwood just tries to survive. This story is based on The Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida which finally closed in 2011.

Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

In this book, set in 1930s Key West, three women are searching for answers. Their lives collide during Florida's deadliest hurricane. Travel back in time and watch multiple romances unfold. As an added bonus, you will learn about Flagler's railroad to Key West.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston.

Shadow Country by Peter Mattheissen

Shadow Country is an epic of American rise and descent—poetic, mythic, devastating. From his Everglades trilogy Peter Matthiessen has coaxed a masterpiece, a wrenching story of familial, racial and environmental degradation stretching from the Civil War to the Great Depression.

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