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Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team
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Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  3,592 ratings  ·  685 reviews
Fast Girls is a compelling, thrilling look at what it takes to be a female Olympian in pre-war America. Rich with historical detail and brilliant story-telling, the book follows three athletes on their path to compete – and win – in a man’s world.  Brava to Elise Hooper for bringing these inspiring heroines to the wide audience they so richly deserve.”—Tara Conklin, New Y ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published July 7th 2020 by William Morrow Paperbacks
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Kate Quinn
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read an ARC for a cover quote; enjoyed hugely!
Jul 01, 2020 rated it liked it
It’s been said that people must walk so that others can run. Three girls, Betty Robinson, Helen Stephens, and Louise Stokes, surmounted the odds to be Olympic runners in the 1936 Olympics, and far from walking, they gave it their absolute all to demonstrate their sprinting prowess in the 100-meter dash and relay.

A slow-build story that follows their parallel journeys from the very first Olympics with women in 1928 to their team presence during the charged 1936 Berlin Olympics, Elise Hooper reve
Joan Happel
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When we think of the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany, it is the great Jessie Owens who springs to mind. However, the lesser known, yet equally fascinating story of the Women’s Olympic team is what Elise Hooper writes about in her new novel. Tracing the lives of three amazing women, Betty Robinson, Louise Stokes and Helen Stephens, this is the story of women’s Olympic track and field from the 1928 games in Amsterdam, followed by the 1932 events in Los Angeles, and culminating in the drama that unfo ...more
Christi M
When someone thinks of the 1936 Olympics, most people will associate it with Jesse Owens set against a tense political landscape. They wouldn’t be wrong – he won 4 gold medals and became a legend. But beyond that women were still fighting for acceptance as athletes as many felt that a woman’s place was at home or believed in the myth that too much exercise would hinder a woman’s ability to have children. Fast Girls is a historical fiction novel that follows 3 women who participated in the 1936 B ...more
May 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
I can see I'm in the minority of reviews for this book, but this one just did NOT hold my attention at all. I think it was not written well (it was so very "basic" and uninteresting in terms of writing), it was not well told, it was a little bland and boring all around to be honest. Sure it was based on real people, and their struggles and all were real and I get that, I respect that, but this book didn't do all that justice in my opinion. This is one I would pass up. It was no Boys in the Boat ...more
Some of the summer Olympics most exciting events are the track and field short distances. Most of us take for granted the participation of men and women of all races in these competitions. However, women’s presence in the summer Olympics was a rarity in 1928, which is where Elise Hooper’s historical fiction, Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team, begins.

The book was too slow getting out of the starting blocks for me. It was more like a marathon than a sprint, to be honest. There w
Sep 09, 2020 rated it did not like it
Brava to Elise Hooper for bringing these inspiring heroines to the wide audience they so richly deserve.”—Tara Conklin.

No, Ms. Conklin, they so richly deserve their actual stories being told in exciting ways by authors using primary sources and citing them. They deserve to have a proper scholarly study of how they defeated racism, sexism, and slights against their sexuality in order to win. If Hooper really wanted to honor the lives of these women, Fast Girls, would have been a work of non-fict
Cindy Burnett
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fast Girls shines the light on three little-known American female Olympians who doggedly pursue their dreams to compete in the Nazi-sponsored 1936 Berlin Olympics, the first integrated Olympics. These women must each overcome their own personal obstacles and roadblocks in order to have their time on the Olympic track and defy those who think women (and people of color) should not compete. Chock full of historical details and stories about various Olympians and the grand event itself, readers wil ...more
Bonnie DeMoss
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a well written and interesting true story of the 1936 women's Olympic track team, which was the first time the women's track team was integrated. Elise Hooper relates history in an interesting and engaging way, much like Laura Hillenbrand did in Seabiscuit.

The book is filled with interesting anecdotes about each member of the team and how they came to be there, and shows how they made their mark on history. This was at the same time Jesse Owens was showing Adolph Hitler that an African
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
4 Olympic Stars

This is an interesting tale based on women who competed in the Olympics from 1928-1936. I was struck by how far we’ve come in treating women more equal to men than during these times. However, our work is not done as women athletes still don’t get the same respect and support at the collegiate or professional level. I was almost incredulous reading that at this time, men really thought that it was too hard physically and mentally for women to compete and no one wanted to see pictu
The Nerd Daily
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Laura Glassman

Fast Girls tells a remarkable story based on the lives of three young women: Betty Robinson, Helen Stephens, and Louise Stokes, who were aspiring professional runners and who ultimately worked their way towards a place on the 1936 US Olympic track team for the Olympics in Berlin. Author Elise Hooper draws readers into an absorbing novel about the lives, trials, and successes of each of these women as they overcame obstacles, worked
Heather Webb
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
FAST GIRLS is an inspiring tale set in a time when the world viewed women as fragile and excitable, but Hooper’s main characters, three tenacious, true-to-life young women comprising the 1936 women’s track and field Olympic team, won’t be subdued by societal expectations. Instead, they follow their hearts and their dreams to Olympic gold. This book was vibrant in its detailing and riveting in its story, and at times, I wanted to cheer. Like Louise, Helen, and Betty, I raced to the finish line. H ...more
Maureen Caupp
Dec 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting, fictionalized, story based on the life of some pioneering female athletes. Well researched but gaps in the record allowed Elise Hooper to imagine what life might have been like for these women, based off of research about life styles at the time. I especially appreciated the Afterword that described what some of the women mentioned went on to do in real life after the Olympics, when there weren't many opportunities for women to make money playing sports. ...more
Mandy White (mandylovestoread)
What an inspiring book! Listened to this on audio while I was working today and really enjoyed it. Learnt alot about athletes in that time and what women had to deal with. Definitely with a read
Oct 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 2020, we were supposed to be treated to a classic favorite of everyone's - the summer Olympics slated to be held in Tokyo, Japan but unfortunately something we've become very familiar with called COVID-19 put an end to this, and postponed it to summer 2021.

At first I felt disappointed, but then I came across historical fiction author Elise Hooper's novel Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team, and after reading a quick synopsis of it, knew it had to be added to my 2020 list of
Gill Paul
Nov 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Writing dual narratives is hard enough, because you have to try to keep the readers’ interest equally invested in both storylines, but in Fast Girls, Elise Hooper has achieved this feat with three compelling narratives. It’s based on the real-life stories of three young women and their journeys to the controversial 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Betty has already won gold in 1928 but then suffers life-changing injuries in an accident that seem to threaten her future as a runner. Helen comes from ...more
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fast Girls is a novel. A disclaimer at the beginning states that it is fictional. And yet, Hooper uses the names of real people and real places and real events. It is a fine line to walk - making up a story about what real people may have said, may have thought, even describing what their deepest emotions and secret longings may have been.

Hooper is a good writer and she does a good job of bringing us into the world of running competitions in the late 1920's and 1930's. She focuses on three runn

Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a compelling story about three women from different walks of life that compete in the Nazi sponsored 1936 womens Olympics. I loved the journey of these women. Their stories and determination. This was heart felt and inspiring. A compelling read.

Dawnny Ruby
Novels N Latte
Hudson Valley NY
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating tale of the grit and determination of some of the women who pioneered in the Olympic arena. Hooper deftly weaves figures like Betty Robinson, Helen Stephens, Louise Stokes, around the historic events of the Olympics in Amsterdam in 1928, Los Angeles in 1932, and the high-profile games in Berlin in 1936. All three women faced obstacles. The articles and letters documented by Hooper show a popular sentiment in society against women in athletic competitions. Louise also faced racial d ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fast Girls, a novel based on the real lives of several of the US’ first female Olympians is a 5 ⭐️ Gold Medal winner. Fans of book The Boys in the Boat and the movie Race, about Jesse Owens, as well as runners and Olympic fans will love this book. I did. This well researched novel depicts the extreme gender and racial bias, as well as other heart wrenching challenges these women faced, yet were also a source of inspiration and motivation. Enhancing and moving along the story are the newspaper st ...more
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am in the minority here - as Elise Hooper's latest, FAST GIRLS, has gotten almost unanimously great reviews. I'm sorry to be the dissenter, especially since I loved her previous two novels. But FAST GIRLS just didn't do it for me.

First, FAST GIRLS is dubbed as "a novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic team." Well, it's not really that. First, it only really focuses on three of the women, all runners, of the 1936 Olympics team. Second, I grew increasingly annoyed and frustrated while reading this al
Susie Schnall
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I raced through this fast-paced novel on an exhilarating journey that begins with the humble beginnings of promising female runners and culminates in their inspiring and obstacle-filled quests for Olympic glory. I fell in love with the characters and their stories of determination, hope, friendship, grit, and the strength of the human spirit. Perfect for readers who want to be motivated by strong women and their pursuit of seemingly-impossible dreams.
Davida Chazan
4.5/5 stars. I'm titling my #bookreview "Women who Raced" and that is exactly what this book is about, and in the Olympics, no less. You can read my review on my blog now. ...more
May 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
Really good book! I didn't really think about what women and people of different races had to go through and how crazy it would have been to go to the Olympics in Berlin during such a tumultuous time. ...more
As this was an Olympic year, I was eager to pick up a historical fiction centered around the Summer Olympics. I knew nothing about any of the women whose stories were told which I thought made Fast Girls are real gem of a find.

The book starts out in 1928 when women’s track and field first became an Olympic event. Betty Robinson, one of the three stories in the book, was present and she was a catalyst for girls and women across the United States to start dreaming of their turn including Missouri
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
This book was received as an ARC from HarperCollins Publishers - William Morrow Paperbacks in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

With Tokyo 2020 Olympics just around the corner, this is the perfect book to read to get inspired. I have heard of the fastest woman alive Olympic competition and knowing the stories of Betty Robinson, Louise Stokes, and Helen Stephens and what they had to do to overcome the adversity from the war and the
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

This story was exhilarating and captured my attention from the very beginning. I've always been fascinated by the Olympics, and it was interesting to read, learn, and reflect on how much the Olympics has changed over time.

Set in pre-war America, the book primarily follows three athletes, Louise, Betty, and Helen, as they each aspire to compete in the Olympics in their respective track and field events. Unfortunately, the path to achieving this dream proves to be more complicated than th
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
I enjoyed Elise Hooper, a new author for me, doing a Facebook discussion about her new book and went out that day and purchased it! This was a wonderful read as we learn about what women went through in order to be accepted and allowed in sports, leading to the Olympics. I enjoyed each woman's story and plan to do some more research as I am very intrigued by the lives that they led. The author did a lot of research and you can tell she was very invested in this book. I had so many feelings while ...more
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, edelweiss
Elise Hooper explores the tenuous world of female Olympic athletes during Hitler’s reign. Three extraordinary U.S. female runners are spotlighted in this exquisitely written and highly entertaining work of historical fiction. The story depicts each of the women’s stories as they come into their own as athletes and finally meet together to join the 1936 Olympic track team held in Nazi-run Berlin, Germany. The women struggle to be their gifted selves and be accepted into a man’s world of athletics ...more
Annissa Joy Armstrong
I received an early copy of this book via Netgalley and Harper Collins.

I really enjoyed this book that followed the lives of three very determined female athletes who competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. There was a lot of opposition to women competing in track and field at the Olympics as it was thought to be too difficult for them. The three ladies proved them wrong!
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The inspiration behind FAST GIRLS 2 6 Oct 21, 2020 01:49PM  
AMERICAN HISTORIC...: Betty Robinson 3 12 Sep 24, 2020 07:32PM  
AMERICAN HISTORIC...: Research for Fast Girls 2 13 Sep 24, 2020 03:09AM  
AMERICAN HISTORIC...: Elise Hooper Discusses Fast Girls 2 10 Sep 24, 2020 03:07AM  
Research for Fast Girls 1 3 Sep 22, 2020 10:41AM  
AMERICAN HISTORIC...: Interview With the Author 7 13 Sep 21, 2020 08:42AM  

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Although a New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise now lives with her husband and two young daughters within stone-skipping distance of the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound. When she’s not writing, she’s in her classroom making American history and literature interesting for high school students.

Follow Elise on Instagram to see more of what she's reading: @elisehooper

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