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The Subway Girls

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From the author of The Balance Project comes a dual-timeline narrative featuring a 1949 Miss Subways contestant and a modern-day advertising executive whose careers and lives intersect.

"Schnall has written a book that is smart and timely...Feels perfect for fans of Beatriz Williams and Liza Klaussmann." —Taylor Jenkins Reid, acclaimed author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

"A fast-paced, clever novel filled with romantic possibilities, high-stakes decisions, and harsh realities. Perfect for fans of Fiona Davis’s The Dollhouse, this engrossing tale highlights the role that ambition, sexism, and true love will forever play in women’s lives." —Amy Poeppel, author of Small Admissions

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.

320 pages, Paperback

First published July 10, 2018

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About the author

Susie Orman Schnall

4 books459 followers
Hi! Thanks for visiting me on Goodreads! Here's a little bit about me...

I am the author of two works of historical fiction: WE CAME HERE TO SHINE and THE SUBWAY GIRLS along with two earlier works of contemporary fiction: THE BALANCE PROJECT and ON GRACE. I grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. My writing has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, POPSUGAR, Writer’s Digest, and Glamour. In addition, I have spoken extensively on work-life balance and I'm the founder of The Balance Project interview series. I live in Purchase, NY, with my husband and our three sons. I love to read, hike, see movies, and make elaborate cheese plates for Friday night happy hour at my house. I'm learning how to watercolor and trying to figure out how to knit. For more about me, please visit www.susieschnall.com or follow me at:

Instagram: @SusieOrmanSchnall
Facebook: SusieOrmanSchnall
Twitter: @SusieSchnall

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 726 reviews
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,294 reviews2,961 followers
August 9, 2018
From 1941 to 1976 the NYC subway system ran a contest for young women called Miss Subways. Each winner had their photograph and a few facts about them displayed in the subway cars. The hope was this would show advertisers how effective this type of marketing could be as passengers' eyes were drawn to the posters. In this historical fiction book, the action switches back and forth between 1949 when Charlotte hopes winning Miss Subways will give her the opportunity to work in an advertising firm, and current day in which Olivia, an advertising executive, is under pressure to come up with a winning campaign in order to keep her job.

So once again a historical fiction book teaches me something I never knew before. The Miss Subways contest is fascinating but also a bit horrifying as sexism certainly existed. Initially I was more drawn to the present day story with Olivia working hard to come up with a winning pitch, but as the story progressed I really became interested in Charlotte's story line. While I could empathize with Olivia's workplace drama it really became hard to deal with some of her hypocritical attitudes. This didn't affect my overall enjoyment of the book though because it's perfectly okay to have imperfect characters as it is much more realistic. In Olivia's defense for the most part she at least could recognize her faults.

Overall, this was a lovely read and shows how far women have come and yet also how workplace inequality still exists. Definitely recommend this book if you are a fan of Fiona Davis as the style and plot is similar to her books.

Thank you to the publisher for sending a free copy! I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Brandice.
857 reviews
November 29, 2018
The Subway Girls is a dual timeline story about Charlotte, a young, ambitious woman in the 1940s, who wants to work in advertising more than anything, and Olivia, a young, ambitious woman working at an ad agency in 2018. Charlotte enters the Miss Subways contest in 1949, hoping it will help her get recognized, to propel her career forward. While driven and experienced, the agency Olivia works at is small and she fears her job may be on the line, so she puts everything into an upcoming pitch for a new campaign, for the MTA in its effort to promote the subway system.

You know Charlotte and Olivia’s paths will cross, but initially, are not sure how. Except, the how became apparent pretty early on in the story. Even so, with this and a handful of other really predictable plot elements, I enjoyed The Subway Girls. It was a quick, engaging read. I did not favor one timeline over the other and found both stories kept my interest.

While we’ve come a long way in the quest for professional equality for women, it is clear there’s still a ways to go. Problems may have shifted but they haven’t fully disappeared.

Prior to the release of The Subway Girls, I had no idea the Miss Subways contest was real. From the historical note at the end of the book, I learned this contest took place on the NYC subway system for 35 years (1941-1976). During this time, approximately 200 women held the esteemed title and were featured in the subway cars. The intent was to highlight the effectiveness of subway advertising as a marketing method, and to give passengers something pleasant to look at during their rides.
July 19, 2018
4.5 highly worthwhile stars
My reviews can be seen here: https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...

For me there is nothing better that reading an historical fiction when you were a part of the actual facts. I was a little girl riding the New York City subway system with my parents and I can remember looking at the ladies pictured in the subway on the trains. They were very pretty and one could not help but stare at them and of course as a little girl want to grow up to just be like them. So, reading this book was like taking a step back into my childhood days. Also relevant to me is that my youngest daughter is in advertising and has worked in this industry for some years now, so I could easily relate some of her experiences to the current day Olivia portrayed in this book.

The Subway Girls is a book that tells its stories through two girls separated by seventy years. First, there is Charlotte, pretty a senior at Hunter College, so desirous of a career in advertising when women in advertising was unheard of except perhaps as a secretary, receptionist, or typist. She can see all her dreams shattered because her father, quite an authoritarian character, needs her to work in his down on its luck hardware store. Charlotte is approached to try out to be a subway girl and through an ironic twist of fate achieves that goal hoping through her notoriety to bolster her father's business and escape the tedium she sees as her future.

Seventy years later, we meet Olivia an advertising executive trying to pitch to the MTA a campaign that will give the MTA much needed visibility and while researching the possibilities comes across the past usage of the subway girls and the idea takes root. We get a wonderful portrait of the advertising industry and the cut throat business it often is, while meeting various people who are interwoven in Olivia's life.

Eventually, Olivia and Charlotte meet and their stories come out and blend to make this book a wonderful look into the history and the ways in which women were treated in both the past and now in the business world.

This was a wonderfully written book that those who love historical fiction novels would surely enjoy. Ms Schnell was able to blend a truly believable story with the true events of the past and the current times. She was able to allow the reader to embark on an excellent journey into the past and make one truly aware of the progress women of today have made in the business world. I recommend this book highly for its content, its writing, and the way in which the characters were presented.

Thank you to Susie Orman Schnall, St Martin's Griffin, and NetGalley for a copy of this informative and highly readable book.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,956 reviews485 followers
July 17, 2018
Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced ebook in exchange for an honest review.

A dual narrative featuring two strong minded women trying to navigate the male dominated sphere of advertising in 1949/2018. I found this book really difficult to put down and so I didn't. I found the little known story of the Miss Subways contest to be very intriguing and I felt that both timelines were strong enough to not detract from the other. A great summer read!
Profile Image for Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews.
1,053 reviews1,374 followers
July 10, 2018

We move from 1949 to 2018 and come across girls who auditioned for being a Subway Girl in 1948 to an advertising agency in 2018 that needs a new campaign to help the transit system get more ridership.

The girls in 1949 were more than happy to have their photos plastered over the subways because it might get them a job in a different industry. The advertising agency in 2018 became interested in the Subway Girls as an ad campaign for themselves.

Olivia who worked for the advertising agency had a brilliant idea to help the transit system and made a connection with the 1949 Subway Girls campaign for their current advertising. She found the campaign as she was doing research, and wondered what really happened to the Subway Girls and if being a Subway Girl really changed or enhanced their lives. Finding this information gave Olivia some hope for her agency’s winning the bid for the ad campaign.

Olivia and her assistant, Priya, hit the jackpot when they found actual posters of The Subway Girls and stories of their lives.

She uncovered more gems when a neighbor knew and had been one of the The Subway Girls.

THE SUBWAY GIRLS is a delightful read. I enjoyed going back to 1949 and seeing how women had to really struggle to get out of the required mold of being a housewife and mother.

Ms. Orman Schnall's writing is refreshing and enjoyable. The story line is interesting and had me researching The Subway Girls.

According to Wikipedia, these women were called Miss Subways, and the program lasted from 1941 to 1976. Ms. Orman Schnall also added information in the ending pages about how she became interested in The Subway girls and gave some background information about them.

THE SUBWAY GIRLS has everything historical fiction and women's fiction fans will love. There is love, heartbreak, secrets, and the story of how women have been trying to "break out" from their stereotypical roles since forever.

The book goes back and forth from the 1940’s to 2018. The story line connects smoothly with each era and has genuine, lovable, and relatable characters.

It is truly a book to savor and enjoy. 5/5

I received an advance copy. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Lisa.
622 reviews236 followers
July 4, 2018
The Subways Girls is the delightful story of two strong women a generation apart, who both struggle to find a balance between love, happiness and ambition.

Charlotte’s dream of a career in advertising is shattered when her father demands that she help out with the failing family paint business. In the meantime, Charlotte, who just graduated from college, is swept into the glamorous world of the Miss Subway contest, which promises irresistible opportunities. 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 subway account in a last ditch effort to save her job at an advertising agency. Olivia‘s search for a winning strategy leads her to the historic Miss Subway campaign. As the pitch date closes in, Olivia find herself dealing with a broken heart, and an unlikely new love interest. An unexpected personal connection to Miss Subways arises that could save her job—and her future.

THE SUBWAY GIRLS is a charming fictional account of a historical contest that took place in NYC from 1941 to 1976 to promote the subway system. Two hundred women have held the title of Miss Subway. The story which is built around the contest is engaging and entertaining. It effortlessly weaves a tale of two career-oriented women a generation apart, and blends multiple plot lines. Both women struggle with the balance between career and personal life.

It’s a touching chronicle with two well-developed characters and some engaging writing. Both Charlotte and Olivia’s stories are gripping. I devoured this book in a day. I particularly loved the scene when Olivia makes her final pitch for the MTA account. Don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t describe it, but it had me cheering. Learning about the Subway Girls was enlightening and I appreciate the research that went into the book. It was delightful to read about the way Miss Subways contest memorabilia lives on today in a coffee table book as well as in the decor of Ellen’s Stardust Diner in Times Square. Next time I’m in NYC I’ll have to check it out!

Author SUSIE ORMAN SCHNALL is also the author of The Balance Project and On Grace. She grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the founder of the Balance Project interview series and has spoken extensively on work-life balance. Thanks to Netgalley, St. Martin’s Griffin and Schnall for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication July 10, 2018
Profile Image for Jennifer Blankfein.
384 reviews653 followers
July 16, 2018
It is not often where I pick up a book that has everything I'm looking for at that moment and The Subways Girls by Susie Orman Schnall delivered.  I started out in my early 20s in NYC at an ad agency so this book was a real treat for me as I was immediately drawn in and wanting to read more.  The urge to google and learn something new is always a good sign when I am reading a book, and the Miss Subways ad campaign sparked my interest.  Well developed, relatable characters that had me rooting for them and invested in them so much to pull at my heart strings and cause me to shed some tears, two separate and equally intriguing stories that perfectly connect, and just enough information or a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter to spur me made this a winner for me.

In her novel, Susie Orman Schnall explores some of the challenges women faced in the 1940s and some that still exist today.  In 1949 Charlotte wants to graduate college and work in advertising, yet the ad agencies only seems to have women working in the typing pool.  She has an opportunity to be in ad campaign that essentially is a beauty contest where the winner's photo will be up in the subway cars, a lovely and successful boyfriend who wants to marry her and start a family, but her desire is to be educated and become a working woman, not a beauty queen or a wife and mother.  Her father demands she drop out of school, work at the family business and not participate in the Miss Subways contest.  After being rejected from all the jobs she applied to, feeling rebellious and going against her father's wishes, and initially not being in favor of becoming an object of beauty, she decides to apply for Miss Subways anyway - with nothing to lose, she thinks it could help her father's business by getting some publicity should she win.  Her supportive boyfriend stands by her, although some of his decisions reflect questionable judgement.  (No spoilers!)

Seventy years later, successful ad executive Olivia has to come up with an advertising idea for the MTA.  She has a complicated relationship with her boss, who has power over her financially and emotionally.  Her male coworker is not a fan of women and has no problem stealing her ideas and presenting them as his own.   Feeling despair, alone and her job on the line, Olivia has to make some decisions. Her strength and perseverance, despite the odds being against her, lead her to research the old Miss Subways campaign.   Through heartbreak, a new love and a surprising connection right next door, Olivia's future begins to look bright.

Striking a balance for women is often challenging; a constant juggling between works and family....wanting it all.  Happiness is fluid and different things may be more important at different times.  I found myself rooting for both Charlotte and Olivia, a champion for the women, no matter what they wanted in order to be happy - the job, the beauty contest, the attention from the guy, the winning campaign...I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

Follow all reviews on Book Nation by Jen.
Profile Image for Zoe.
1,819 reviews171 followers
July 9, 2018
Charming, alluring, and lighthearted!

The Subway Girls is set in New York City during the late 1940s, as well as present day, and is told from two different perspectives, Charlotte, a young woman who yearns to have a career and be more than just a wife and mother, and Olivia a marketing executive who's determined to prove she deserves the same recognition and success as her male counterparts.

The prose is precise and effortless. The characters are ambitious, independent, creative, and strong. And the plot, alternating between past and present, is a nostalgic, fascinating tale of life, love, deception, betrayal, heartbreak, perseverance, friendship, family, romance, and the world of marketing.

The Subway Girls is a well-written, exceptionally researched novel that highlights Susie Orman Schnall’s incredible knowledge into the Miss Subway advertising campaign that graced the inside of NY Subway cars from 1941 to 1976 and reminds us that even though we've come so far the work-life balance is still a very real struggle for professional women today.

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

All my reviews can be found on my blog at https://whatsbetterthanbooks.com
Profile Image for Sherri Thacker.
1,237 reviews245 followers
July 20, 2018
Wow what a book!!! 5 stars from me!!! Sometimes when a book goes back and forth from past to present, it gets confusing. But this book was wonderful. The book starts out in 1949 with Charlotte and it moves forward to 2018 with Olivia. I really enjoyed this book and did not want to put it down.
Profile Image for Simra Sadaf.
70 reviews32 followers
March 11, 2018
3.5 stars.
The Subway Girls follows the life of two women in two different timelines. In 1949, a determined and confident 21 year old Charlotte Friedman, participates in the Miss Subways competition and her life goes on a rollercoaster ride after entering that beauty contest. The second story is set in 2018, Olivia, a hardworking girl finding and fighting her way in a world full of misogyny and male chauvinists. Olivia works for an advertising agency and comes up with the idea of connecting with the Miss Subways women.

Susie Orman Schnall has written quite a feminist book. I liked how the story intertwined despite a huge gap in the timeline. The book is a quick read which follows narrator's point of view. The overlapping of two stories, 1949 and 2018, shows us how women were empowered back then despite the orthodox era and how they are empowered now despite the male domination. The book has some very real and adorable characters like Ben and JoJo. The romance angle was quite predictable, in a good way though. One little mystery kept me glued to the book till the last page and it was worth it. The writer rushed up with the story and seemed forceful in making ends meet.

The Subway Girls is a lighthearted and fun book to read between heavy reads. The book is said to be published in July and I recommend it to all the women, I guarantee you will be inspired by Olivia and Charlotte's story. A must read for all the Mad Men fans out there.
Thanks to Netgalley, St.Martin's press and the author for providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Cindy Burnett (Thoughts from a Page).
565 reviews979 followers
August 1, 2020
In Schnall’s latest novel, she creates a dual-timeline tale that focuses on a small slice of New York City history, the Miss Subways competition that took place from the early 1940’s through the mid-1970’s. In 1949, Charlotte wants a career in advertising, but she is hampered by her father’s insistence that she help with the family’s business. She enters the Miss Subways competition in hopes of helping the family business which would then allow her to pursue advertising. In 2018, Olivia stumbles across the historic Miss Subways campaign when she is tasked with creating a new pitch for the MTA (New York’s subway system). Intrigued with the concept, Olivia delves into the historic competition hoping that she can use some components of it for her current proposal. As the story progresses, the two tales slowly intertwine as the women struggle to balance their careers, love and family.

My favorite part of the book was the Miss Subways campaign. We visit New York City regularly and frequently ride the subways when there. I was unfamiliar with this competition and loved learning about its origin, its impact on the subway system, and the women who served as Miss Subways. Schnall’s Acknowledgments section at the end of the book provides additional in-depth details on how she discovered the competition and the research she subsequently conducted.

The Subway Girls is a fun read that provides a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era of New York City.

Listen to my podcast at https://www.thoughtsfromapage.com for fun author interviews including one with Susie. For more book reviews, check out my Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/thoughtsfro....
Profile Image for Jamie Rosenblit.
903 reviews507 followers
July 10, 2018
This book absolutely captivated me from page one. Dual timelines and New York City had me sold off the bat but it was Olivia and Charlotte that wowed me. I loved the history of the Miss Subways contest as well as the familial bonds here, family struggles and difficulty of relationships, all set against the glamorous background of New York, my own city. The words jumped off the pages for me as I imagined my own subway rides and how I would love to see this advertising campaign on my own commutes. Dive into these pages and find out why!

I received an advance copy. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Sandra Hoover.
1,176 reviews188 followers
February 24, 2018
The Subway Girls is a heart-touching story, one that held me in the palm of its hand right through the end. Readers should know it's not just another historical read, but rather a story that utilizes a small piece of history in the telling of the beautiful, seductive, emotional journey of two women in their pursuit of true happiness. I love the way the author uses two women from different generations to portray and compare the plight of women pursuing their dreams and the choices they're forced to make. Charlotte & Oliva are both strong, determined women whose paths eventually cross, forever changing both their lives. The Subway Girls is their story.

In 1949, Charlotte's career avenue was limited if not nearly impossible. The idea that a woman could have a career beyond that of a typist or a wife and mother was ludicrous and those brazen enough to pursue it were often ridiculed. But, if they were pretty (and lucky enough to be chosen), they could go the modeling/beauty queen route and use their new found fame as a springboard to new opportunities. (Historical Fact: From 1941 to 1976, the New York Subways Advertising Company held Miss Subways' contests with the winning contestants featured on subway posters. The contest helped open some otherwise closed avenues to these women, affecting their lives in many different ways.) Through Charlotte's story, readers learn how it eventually changed her life.

In 2018, Olivia enjoys a women-friendly work atmosphere, but even in the here and now she faces challenges unique to women. She's living her dream job in advertising, but at what cost? Like Charlotte 70 years before her, she's facing some hard decisions while fighting the good-old-boys mentality of the corporate world. When an opportunity arises for her to pitch an advertisement campaign to the New York Subway Authority, Oliver discovers the past Subway Girls Campaign and a connection that elevates this story to another level comes to light.

The Subway Girls is a fascinating, entertaining work of historical fiction, propelled to life through the use of alternating past/present chapters until characters' paths cross, intertwine, and proceed forward together. As the fast-paced plot unfolds, it becomes clear that women of all generations still struggle with the same age-old battle of balancing love, family, and careers. At times, I found myself frustrated over the pain and indecision inner turmoil causes both women, even as I recognized it as something I've dealt with myself. Schnall's descriptive abilities are evident, bringing characters and setting to vivid life - so much so that I felt I was there, struggling and fighting right along with them. The author's writing flows effortlessly from past to present, chapter to chapter, creating a story that's easy to follow and hypnotizing to watch unfold. A charming, fabulous, inspiring, burn-the-midnight-oil Must Read! I highly recommend The Subway Girls to everyone!

*Many thanks to St. Martin's Press for an arc of this book.
**Reviewed at Cross My Heart Reviews
Profile Image for Diane Perry.
1,206 reviews29 followers
January 27, 2018
I received this in a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you St. Martin's Press for the opportunity to read one of my favorite authors. This story was loving, inspiring and very enjoyable. I loved how past and present collided in this book. This is a fictionalized account of The Subway Girls campaign in the 1940s. Charlotte's story was inspiring and thought provoking. She is one thought cookie. Olivia is trying to compete in the ad world and comes across the story of the Subway Girls. Both women are a force and I loved every minute. Unputdownable!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
2,572 reviews122 followers
August 29, 2018
Unable to find a job after college, yet determined to be independent, 21 yo Charlotte enters the Miss Subways beauty contest. Unbeknownst to Charlotte, taking this step towards independence, and away from her obligation to help out at her father's paint store, will change her life in unexpected ways.

The dual timeline follows Charlotte in 1949 as she struggles to gain a foothold in the mostly male business world and Olivia seven decades later in 2018 as she navigates the current world of advertising. Both women must face sexist and misogynistic foes in order to succeed. It was interesting to see how differently—and unfortunately, similarly—the women were addressed and treated so many decades apart.

"The chances of you getting anywhere near an ad are slim. You're more likely to get bitten by an alligator." - Professor Oldham to Charlotte on why she'll never by anything but a typist

Since I work in Marketing, I was particularly intrigued by the advertising campaigns depicted in this story. Overall, I loved learning about this piece of NYC history and wished the book had been longer because I'd love to know more about Charlotte, Olivia and Ben! This was my first book by this author, and I look forward to more.

Thank you to the author and the publisher for an advance copy won in a Goodreads giveaway!

Location: New York City

#BookSparks #SRC2018

"But at some point I have to be an adult and live my own life, and that includes me getting to decide that just because they're my parents, it doesn't mean I have to continue to act like their child." - Olivia to her friend, James
Profile Image for Patricia Doyle.
410 reviews11 followers
March 3, 2018
The Subway Girls is told in two storylines that merge at the end. It’s the story of Charlotte in 1949 and Olivia in 2018. Sadly, however, those storylines are shallow, lifeless, predictable, contrived and barely credible. You could very early foresee what would be happening between Rose, Mrs. Glasser, and Ben. Yes, very predictable.

Charlotte (1949) enters the Miss Subways contest and becomes Miss Subways when her new friend, Rose, relinquishes her title. Then a bizarre situation is contrived (insert eyeroll) and Charlotte must make a crucial decision.

Olivia (2018), who works in advertising, decides to propose another Miss Subways contest almost 70 years later. Olivia’s neighbor, Mrs. Glasser, just happens to have been a Miss Subways all those years ago. Yes, very contrived.

The love interests in this book reach far-fetched, unreasonable extremes, including Charlotte and her fiancé, Olivia and her two love interests, and even Thomas and Pablo.

The use of grammar, words, and phrases was annoying. There was excessive use of ‘essentially’, ‘incredible/ly’, ‘amazing’, and, most of all, ‘clearly’. (Clearly, there were way too many clearlys.) In addition, the author used phrases that were not of the era, like “… take responsibility for …” which would not have been said in 1949. Also, many of the similes were flimsy, like “… sweat circles under his armpits were spreading like batter pouring into a brownie pan” (oh my).

All in all, I did not enjoy The Subway Girls. Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and honestly review this book. I sincerely wish my review were more favorable.
Profile Image for Amy.
1,874 reviews1,879 followers
July 8, 2018

This book totally enchanted me, I was swept away to NYC, both past and present, and to me, that’s the hallmark of well written historical fiction. Since I’m fairly new to the genre I’ve been dabbling and trying to see what I like the most and I think I can firmly say that anything with a dual, alternating timeline seems to engross me the most and Orman Schnall charmed me the whole way through.

Charlotte is the protagonist in the 1940’s section and Olivia is for the 2018 sections and I equally enjoyed both of these woman for their tenacity and strength alone, but they both had several other wonderful qualities as well. Charlotte was a sweet young lady trying to start her career in an extremely sexist era, but man was her determination inspiring. Olivia clearly had many more opportunities than Charlotte, but she was also an inspiring woman, firm in her convictions and fun to boot. Their storylines merged in mostly surprising ways even though I did piece a few things together, nothing big and definitely nothing that detracted from my enjoyment whatsoever.

The historical piece of the Miss Subways contest was fascinating to me, I’ve never heard of this before and found it to be so interesting. It seems like a concept that was ahead of the times in some ways and so sexist in others. I can definitely understand why it was so popular and also why so many young New York women competed for the opportunity to be a Miss Subways girl, especially as any opportunities for young women were few and far between during that time period. This is one of those carefree, easy reads that make for a perfect summer choice, you can’t go wrong grabbing this if you want a light, fun and engaging read.

The Subway Girls in three words: Charming, Sweet and Inspiring.
Profile Image for Jasmine.
1,133 reviews41 followers
June 1, 2018
The Subway Girls is a dual narrative following Charlotte and Olivia - two women who live 70 years apart - as the Miss Subways competition changes their lives. I loved the concept, and for the most part, it was well-executed. The feminist theme which underscored the story was truly great, but I felt like the characters didn't do complete justice to the ideals of feminism - there was so much talk about independence and being strong and tearing down the misogynistic patriarchy, but then so many bad decisions were made which went against that talk.

I've given it 3 stars because I did enjoy the story as a whole. But there were so many predictable and convenient tropes and cliffhangers, to the point where I could've told you exactly what would have happened before I'd finished the book. It was a great idea, but could have been executed a lot better.

Thank you to Netgalley for the e-copy.
Profile Image for Melissa.
1,194 reviews
June 13, 2018
I enjoyed Susie Orman Schnall's previous novels, so I was thrilled to see that she had a new one coming out this year. The concept sounded interesting enough, but what's inside is even better!

Through Susie's lens, I learned something I knew nothing about...The Miss Subways contests. Seeing information about her research at the end makes me want to visit the New York Transit Museum the next time I'm out that way.

The story is beautifully written with compelling and sympathetic lead characters who are both striving for their dreams in the advertising field. I love how their stories ran parallel to each other, but were each interesting in their own ways. They both had conflicts in the way of reaching their goals and I liked seeing how they would conquer them.

Some aspects of this novel felt predictable, since a lot of information was revealed early on in order to tie Olivia's story to Charlotte's in some way. However, I still found myself surprised at the turns the story would take and I wasn't always sure what would happen.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Subway Girls and I hope Susie doesn't wait another three years to publish a new book. I really enjoy her writing style and I even got teary-eyed at times. If you're looking for a good escape read this summer, pick this one up!

Dream movie cast:
Olivia: Lyndsy Fonseca
Charlotte (1949): Maude Apatow
Rose (1949): Daniela Bobadilla
Sam (1949): Anthony Ingruber
Ben: William Moseley
Matt: Peter Hermann (because, hot boss!)
Thomas: Tyler Hoechlin
Mrs. Glasser: Marion Ross
Jojo (1949): Stefania LaVie Owen
Profile Image for Chandra Claypool (WhereTheReaderGrows).
1,553 reviews318 followers
July 13, 2018
I used to think historical fiction was my least favorite genre. I'm being proved wrong over and over again these days, which makes me happy that I've expanded my diversity in reading. Turns out, I'm just not a fan of historical fiction that reads like a history textbook or spends too much time trying to teach me a lesson.

Luckily, the The Subway Girls, the author journeys us back to 1949 through Charlotte's eyes and then to present day 2018, through Olivia's eyes. Both women trying to find a balance between love, ambition and the hindrances that come with each. We see that throughout the decades, not much really changes when it comes to trying to strive what you want without doing it at the expense of your own self. And by that I mean, finding a balance and compromise that makes you happy. Don't we all want this ultimately?

I loved reading about Olivia and Charlotte. There's subtle Mad Men/Penny Olson vibes with the advertising agency and a woman just trying to be taken seriously. Regardless of how forward we've moved as a society (and seem to be regressing rapidly these days unfortunately), we still have issues with women being taken seriously over men in the same positions. We have made great strides though as well, which we should all take into account. Realize that our actions today may not seem like they make much of a dent but like I've learned, even the tiniest things are noticed by SOMEONE, whether you think so or not. So try and do as right as you can. I KNOW it can be difficult, and I certainly have a mouth on me, but move forward and realize, as it's noted in this novel, that are problems really aren't as big as they may seem at the time. Change the frame of what you see around you and note that the world doesn't stop for ANYONE.

Well, that certainly was a ramble. 🤣 Please also take the time to read the little history lesson that you do get at the end of the book about the real Subway Girls and the impact they made on the world.

I am pleasantly surprised at how happy all of this made me.

Thank you St. Martin's Griffin and NetGalley for this copy.
Profile Image for Tammy(PeaceLoveBooks).
525 reviews199 followers
June 13, 2018
The Subway Girls pulled me in from the first page! Beautifully written with a dual timeline, 1949 and present day, this is the story of Charlotte and Olivia. Charlotte is a young woman in 1949, ready to break free of the constraints put on her by her father and the times. Olivia is an ad executive trying to win a large ad campaign. I loved reading as their stories entwined. Susie Orman Schnall is a new author for me and I can't wait to read her other books!
Profile Image for Darla.
3,345 reviews526 followers
July 2, 2018
This book was such a joy to read and will most certainly be in many a beach bag this summer. Olivia (2018) and Charlotte (1949) are in dual storylines that are destined to instersect at some point. The story pivots on the Subway Girls contests that took place in NYC for many years. I had never heard of them and now I really need to visit the New York Transit Museum when am in NYC for a visit.

In addition to highlighting this unusual piece of history, we also realize that the more things change the more they stay the same. Women in 1949 had many of the same challenges in their lives that we have in 2018. What a great reminder to get to know the older women in our lives and learn from them.

This would make a delightful book group read. At a recent meeting of a book group I attend, there was a fellow member asking for a new historical fiction book that did not take place during WW II. At that time I could not recommend one. Now I can!

I received a digital ARC of this book from St. Martins and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Karen R.
839 reviews496 followers
March 7, 2019
Great storytelling by Susie Orman Schnall. Fascinating to learn about the significant “Miss Subways” advertising success story that began in the early 1940’s by the John Roberts Powers Agency. CEO John Roberts Powers vision was to develop it for the promotion of the company’s models. Millions of people viewed these posters on the NY subway lines between 1941 through the mid-seventies. This book ties in two character perspectives related to this subject, 70 years apart.

I loved the fictional aspect of this book as much as the historical. Charlotte and Olivia are both from the advertising industry; strong women who grew up decades apart yet struggles are similar. Recognition is hard to come by despite progress on gender equality over the years. Loved their spunk and drive and the author’s imagined connections to the “Miss Subway” storyline. Well done!
Profile Image for Toni.
643 reviews204 followers
July 28, 2018

The Subway Girls were real! Over 200 women were chosen as “Miss Subways” from 1941 to 1976 in New York, with their posters placed in every subway car running in all five boroughs. Although it all started as an ad campaign and a bit of a beauty contest, it launched some of its winners to new careers and endeavors.
With this historical foundation, our novel takes the reader back to 1949 and the challenges of life for one of the Miss Subway winners, Charlotte. The chapters alternate this time travel with present day Olivia, almost her counterpart in 2018, who works in a small advertising firm in Manhattan. Their paths will eventually converge in the most unusual but magnificent way; with many twists and turns and other delightful characters.
We get to compare the lives and times of both women, separated by almost 70 years, but discover that family is still our most important treasure regardless of the decade.
Susie Orman Schnall first got her idea for this book when hearing the topic discussed on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” (‘She nearly had to pull her car over,’ she said. Sound familiar?) She then found the book, “Meet Miss Subways” by Fiona Gardner and Amy Zimmer during her research. The book showcases forty-one past winners with photos and interviews. Susie includes information on this and more in her book as well.
I highly recommend you travel with us on the subways of NY, past and present, through the Subway Girls who bring it all to life.

Thank you NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Susie Orman Schnall
Note: My original review here; restored from my personal files dated: 5/18/18; on 7/28/18 .
Profile Image for Shereen Lee.
29 reviews11 followers
February 22, 2018
I received a copy of this book from St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review. Plot elements mentioned may not be final.

I loved the book's innovative concept, and its proficiency in toggling between two narratives. However, the characters and storyline seemed a little unrealistic to me, and I felt that some characterizations and narratives could be lazy at times. There's often little explanation or context behind relationship building throughout the book, and unrealistic actions are seldom explained. The Subway Girls initially had a lot of appeal to me, but ultimately fell short in its execution.
Profile Image for Jennifer S. Brown.
Author 1 book400 followers
March 14, 2018
This novel weaves together the stories of the careers of two women, Charlotte and Olivia. Charlotte lives in 1949, and wants, more than anything, to work in advertising in a time when women were regulated to the typing pool. While very few women make it out of the secretarial job, Charlotte is hoping that she will be one of the few women who make it to junior copywriter. Olivia, in 2018, works as an ad person at a struggling boutique agency. Her coworker is a jerk, she has feelings for her boss, but more than anything, she wants to succeed at her job.

Both novels further tie in, as Charlotte has the opportunity to audition as Miss Subways. Miss Subways was a real-life competition where each month a new woman was chosen and her face was put on posters in the subways. It was a campaign to increase advertising on the New York subway system and a way for a young woman to be a beauty queen for a month. Meanwhile, in 2018, Olivia is given the opportunity to pitch the MTA (the New York subway system), and from there the story lines entwine even more.

While there are romantic story lines in here, love is not the main thrust of this novel, which I adore. This novel is feminist at heart and it's true to the time period, which at times means things don't always go the way the characters (or we!) wish they'd go. The story twists in unexpected ways which delighted me. Schnall never takes the easy way out.

Fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid and Camille Di Maio will adore this book, as in style, it reminded me both of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (by Reid) and The Way of Beauty (by Di Maio). A great story of Miss Subways, New York, and women making their ways in a cutthroat business.
Profile Image for Camille Maio.
Author 10 books1,041 followers
March 26, 2018
What a gem!! I read this book in just a couple of days. I was captivated by this corner of New York history that was completely new to me. Schnall writes with charm, historical feeling, and enough mystery to keep the reader guessing. I have read her previous work and am excited that she is delving into historical fiction. I hope she'll write more!
Profile Image for Karen.
784 reviews84 followers
July 2, 2018
The Subway Girls by Susie Orman Schnall

This historical novel set in New York City has been based on the real life Subway Girls competition that that took place between 1941-1976. The author heard about this on a radio broadcast of NPR. She was so fascinated by the story she read "Meet Miss Subways: New York's Beauty Queens 1941-1976 written by Fiona Gardner and Amy Zimmer, Seapoint Books 2013.

This story was absolutely fascinating although the two main character's Charlotte and Olivia are fictional. The writing was vivid and descriptive. This is a story that I will buy the book when it is published because I enjoyed it so much. Charlotte and Olivia characterizations are richly developed. Both are independent, strong women who each face the struggles of trying to find balance in the disparities in a world where men are still paid higher salaries than women for doing the same job in some cases.

Charlotte's story time line is set in 1941 where she wants to work in an advertising agency after she graduates from college. She doesn't stand a chance as becoming a copywriter or an account executive. Her only option is becoming a typist. Her younger brother Harry, who was the favorite child has passed away, so Charlotte's father expects her to work in the family owned Hardware store. Charlotte has a steady boyfriend that wants to marry her.

Olivia's character takes place in 2018 where she also works for an advertising agency but she reflects how far women have come in the work place as she competes with a man who steals her idea to pitch an ad campaign, I really admired both Charlotte and Olivia. I was hooked from the very first page to the last and read this gem of a novel in one sitting.

In 1941 women were not considered to have careers and hire nannies while raising families. While reading I was transported to simpler times where there was no cell phones and it was nostalgic for me when somebody had to make a phone call they looked for a phone booth. Each chapter jumps back in forth in time alternating between 1941 and 2018.

Charlotte devises a plan by entering in a contest held by a modeling agency to win a contest that features a poster of the winner on the inside of each subway car. She hopes if she wins it will bring free publicity and breath life into her father's hardware store which is losing business. She thinks that is the only way she can get a job as a typist as her father expects her to work in his store. Her father forbids her to enter the contest.

This book explores themes of family, relationships, romance, adoption, alcoholism, abuse, love, friendship and the interesting Miss Subway girls. It is a kind and gentle story with quiet writing. It is refreshing to read about a part of history that is largely unknown that is timeless. I really think the author did a great job with making both protagonist's background story converge so seamlessly.
I highly recommend this novel to all who enjoy great storytelling and learning about historical events.

Thank you to Net Galley, Susie Orman Schnall and St. Martins Press for providing me with my digital copy for a fair and honest review.
Profile Image for Barbara.
645 reviews49 followers
April 8, 2018
I was a huge fan of the author's, The Balance Project and when I heard the premise of The Subway Girls, I knew I wanted to read it. The captivating story involves two time lines, 1949 with spunky Charlotte who wants to work in a NYC advertising firm as a copy writer. She's even willing to take a job in the typing pool (basically the only option for women at that time), but even that seems impossible. It looks like Charlotte is going to end up working at her families Brooklyn hardware store, until Charlotte receives a chance to try out for Miss Subways, an ad campaign highlighting girls from the five boroughs of New York. The feminist in Charlotte struggles with Miss Subways being a beauty contest of sorts, but what if it's her ticket to independence? The second story line involves present day Olivia, who works as an ad executive at a boutique advertising firm. She ends up pitching the MTA account, though we realize not much has changed for women in her field as it appears that misogyny abounds. Through Olivia's ideas for the MTA pitch, we find how the two stories are entwined. No spoilers, but the scene where all the Miss Subways turn up was just the best! As I read this story I realized how far we've come as women, yet how far we still have to go! I saw this recently in my job in the corporate world, where a company I deal with finally hired a female managing director after 25 years! We need strong women to break into the old boys club. This book was delight to read and makes me want to visit the New York Transit museum to see the place the author did research and find out more about the real Miss Subways. Thank you to the author and publisher for the ARE in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Cassie’s Reviews.
1,010 reviews30 followers
September 26, 2018
I want to thank netgalley and the author for an advanced copy of this book! I loved this story it was a quick read and a light read , sometimes I need that after so many mystery’s and thrillers. The story takes place in 2018 with the character Olivia who works in advertising and 1949 and the character Charlotte, who is attending college for advertising and struggling to find her place in a mans word who think woman need to be at home in the kitchen and taking care of children. Olivia is trying to find an idea for her advertising job she comes up with bringing back the subway girls like they did in 1949 , which showed posters of young beaufil intelligent woman who are trying to beak into the working world and they had a new subway girl for each month! Well Charlotte who ends up being Olivia’s neighbors won a subway girl in 1949 and decides to help Olivia bring back the subway girls and help her. I loved the back and forth stories about how both Charlotte in 1949 and Olivia 2018 both have the same struggles In the workforce and the love and struggles they have . I especially loved charlottes story that takes place around the 1949 time period and the struggles she had not just being a subway girl and her personal life! I recommend this book as a light reader and you will fall in love with the characters as well!
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