Book Title and Author: The Subway Girls by Susie Orman Schnall
Publication Date and Publisher: July 10, 2018 by St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 320 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: June 17, 2018 (e-arc)
In 1949, dutiful and ambitious Charlotte’s dream of a career in advertising is shattered when her father demands she help out with the family business. Meanwhile, Charlotte is swept into the glamorous world of the Miss Subways beauty contest, which promises irresistible opportunities with its Park Avenue luster and local fame status. But when her new friend—the intriguing and gorgeous fellow-participant Rose—does something unforgivable, Charlotte must make a heart-wrenching decision that will change the lives of those around her forever.
Nearly 70 years later, outspoken advertising executive Olivia is pitching the NYC subways account in a last ditch effort to save her job at an advertising agency. When the charismatic boss she’s secretly in love with pits her against her misogynistic nemesis, Olivia’s urgent search for the winning strategy leads her to the historic Miss Subways campaign. As the pitch date closes in on her, Olivia finds herself dealing with a broken heart, an unlikely new love interest, and an unexpected personal connection to Miss Subways that could save her job—and her future.
The Subway Girls is the charming story of two strong women, a generation apart, who find themselves up against the same eternal struggle to find an impossible balance between love, happiness, and ambition.
I love historical fiction, and The Subway Girls is a fabulous reflection of the genre, as well as a mix of women’s and contemporary fiction! It definitely has something that fans of all those genres will just love: history, love, romance, friendship, family drama, hints of unfolding secrets, ambition, heartbreak, and successes. It is the first book that I’ve read by Susie Orman Schnall, but she has a new fan in me and I plan on reading her other books!
The Subway Girls is the story told in dual timelines of two very strong, amazing, and determined female characters: Charlotte in 1949 and Olivia in the present. Schnall’s newest novel uses the real-life history of the Miss Subways beauty competitions that ran from 1941 to 1976 to intersect the stories of these two women from entirely different generations to compare and contrast the roles of these women, the societal expectations towards them, and each of the women’s dreams about their careers: both women aspiring to have a career in advertising.
Charlotte’s career opportunities were of course much more limited in 1949 compared to Olivia’s in the present, but Schnall addresses male attitudes toward women in both decades. Sadly, we see that, at times, nothing much has changed in Olivia’s day as she deals with her male co-workers than when Charlotte was searching for her independence and employment in the late 1940s. Nor has anything really changed as both women try to balance careers, love, and relationship. I understood their turmoil all too well based on my own experiences as I’ve struggled with the age-old battle of trying to balance career, family, relationship, and I’m sure it’s one that most women of all generations are all too familiar with!
The chapters take place in alternating timelines until the character’s lives intersect and they begin to interact in the present day, and it is a fast-paced, vivid, entertaining read! I absolutely loved Schnall’s flowing writing style and how effortlessly the stories came together. I had never heard of the Miss Subways contests, so it was very interesting to learn that such a contest existed, especially since the contest did open doors to many of the winners that otherwise would not have been available to the women. The characters in the book, all of them, not just Olivia and Charlotte were just fantastic, even the ones that I didn’t quite like! Schnall has so much talent as a writer in bringing her characters to life and making you feel like you are part of the story!
This is a fun read that will keep you up late at night, turning the pages well past your bedtime! I definitely recommend you pick up The Subway Girls for one of your summer must reads, especially for any lover of excellent historical, contemporary and women’s fiction! You definitely don’t want to miss it!
**Thank you NetGalley and St.Martin’s Press for my review copy in exchange for my fair and honest review.**