I am a book reviewer for NetGalley, which means I received this book for free in exchange for a review. Click here for more information.
Author: Susie Orman Schnall
Genre/category: General fiction/historical
Release date: 10th July 2018
In The Subway Girls, we follow two women from different periods in history. In 1949 we have Charlotte, an ambitious woman who dreams of one day becoming a copywriter for a big advertising agency in the city, and who grabs an opportunity by entering The Subway Girls competition (more on that in a minute). In 2018, we have Olivia, an outspoken advertising executive about to embark upon a very important pitch that could lead to her biggest promotion yet.
What I really like in a historical fiction is the ability it has to take a little snippet of history and bring it to life. In this case, we find out about The Miss Subway competition (which The Subway Girls is based on), which ran from 1941-1976. Over the years, 200 New York residents – young, beautiful and charismatic women – were chosen to be the face of the subway for a month, with their picture being displayed for commuters to see, alongside a small bio about each woman. (If you’re interested I recommend you read this Harper’s Bazaar article about Miss Subways.) If it wasn’t for books like this, I wouldn’t know about these little pockets of history.
So in the book we have Charlotte, and her reasons for entering the competition, primarily to help her get away from a dismal future working in her fathers’ shop. Little does she know that entering the competition will have a huge impact on her life.
Then, some seventy years later, we have Olivia, discovering the competition and making a new campaign exploring what happened to the Subway Girls of the past, whilst fighting for her position at the company she works for.
Both women had satisfying stories. I really enjoyed how the characters linked. I liked how, despite having determination, ambition, and grit in common, there was a clear distinction between the voices of Charlotte and Olivia. I liked the pacing of the chapters that switched between them. I liked the story and the side characters, who all felt well fleshed out and realistic. I liked that it has what you ultimately want from this kind of story: surprises, intrigue, and character growth.
I don’t want to say much more in case I give it away. The Subway Girls is feel-good story that was fun to read. This is definitely one of my book highlights this year.