The Subway Girls: A Novel

The Subway Girls: A Novel

by Susie Orman Schnall

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250169761
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 07/10/2018
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 52,328
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Susie Orman Schnall grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Her writing has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, POPSUGAR, Writer’s Digest, andGlamour. She is also the author of the award-winning novels On Grace and The Balance Project. Susie has spoken extensively on work-life balance and is the founder of The Balance Project interview series. She lives in Purchase, NY, with her husband and their three sons.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

CHARLOTTE THURSDAY, MARCH 3, 1949

After extensive research and considerable internal deliberation, Charlotte had submitted employment applications to five advertising agencies, their prestigious footings in Madison Avenue's most glimmering and stalwart buildings having nothing to do with her choices. Four rejected her expeditiously. The deliberately worded and carefully typed missives were diplomatic: the standard We are unable to offer you employment at this time. We wish you well in your continued pursuits sort of baloney.

Charlotte was convinced, however, that the true reason for the rejections was her advanced age. That the hiring executives took one look at her, with her impressive-but-unnecessary-for-a-typist education from Hunter College and her twenty-one-year-old vestal womb on the verge of decay, and assumed they were better off with girls fresh out of high school. Charlotte, they had most wrongly assumed, in her eyes at least, was one stockinged step away from the maternity ward, which would leave them with a typist seat gone cold and the terribly inconvenient need to recruit a new girl mid-season.

But as Charlotte and JoJo made their way out of Professor Finley's econ class, the March air stinging their exposed skin, Charlotte hoped that the news from advertising agency number five would be imminent. And positive. "It should be today, JoJo. I don't know how much longer I can hold it together if it doesn't come today," she said, shielding herself from the cold wind with her woolen scarf and fierce ambition as they walked toward their favorite coffee shop, a well-lit number on the corner of Seventy-First and Lex.

"I don't know if I can eat a thing," Charlotte continued once they had sat down. "I feel like that Hawaiian tsunami from a few years ago is gaining momentum in my stomach."

"She'll have a tea, and I'll have an egg salad on white, please," JoJo told the waitress.

"That letter better be bursting with good news. Another rejection and I'm heading straight to the high point of the Brooklyn Bridge."

"Charlotte!" JoJo scolded. "Don't talk like that. You're gonna get the job. And if you don't, there are better options than a swan dive."

"Like what?"

"J. Walter Thompson is not the only advertising agency in all of Manhattan, you know."

"Easy for you to say. You have a job, Miss Copywriter at McCann Erickson," Charlotte said, taking a sip of her tea.

"I realize how important this is to you. And I know things aren't great at home. It's as if every day you're still living in Bay Ridge is like another ragged breath into a balloon. And you're on the verge of combusting."

"Ain't that the truth? And I don't know whether to laugh or cry."

"Laugh, Charlotte. It's good for digestion."

Charlotte gave JoJo one of her what-are-you-talking-about-JoJo looks and then laughed. How lucky she was to have a best friend like JoJo. A girl who relied on truth as much as humor, realizing that the former was essential and the latter was what made life bearable. A far cry from most of the other girls in their class, who relied more on flattery and gossip, neither of which was essential nor made life bearable, and resulted in the type of girl Charlotte and JoJo had neither time nor patience for.

* * *

"Lookin' like spring might finally be on 'er way," the optimistic-as-eggs postman said as he and Charlotte both approached the front walk to her house.

"I sure hope so," Charlotte said politely, smiling and accepting the small pile of mail. Waiting for the afternoon post had punctuated Charlotte's days the last couple of weeks. Anticipation. Disappointment. Anticipation. Disappointment.

Flipping fervently through the envelopes, Charlotte spotted a J. Walter Thompson return address. Anticipation? Check. Disappointment. She hoped not. Charlotte's stomach dropped. An elevator with a broken cable.

J. Walter Thompson, the most prestigious agency in Manhattan, had been Charlotte's first choice all along. It was the perfect place for Charlotte to begin her dream career in advertising, despite the distressing fact that the decade insisted upon that career, for young ladies at least, be confined to the typing pool. But Charlotte was used to feeling confined, and preferred the metal- desk-and-Smith-Corona sort of confinement to the sort she was presently enduring amid the silence and the sadness that was her parents' home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. So while the other firms' rejections were disappointing, they weren't the worst outcome. The worst outcome would be a rejection from JWT. Charlotte didn't have a backup plan.

Ignoring the cold, Charlotte sat on her stoop and examined the envelope. Miss Charlotte Friedman. Clear black type. The shipshape handiwork of an earnest typing pool girl.

She would have preferred to die — JoJo enthusiastically claiming the cemetery plot immediately to her right — than be like most of the Bay Ridge girls, who wanted to get married and have babies straightaway. A girl who settled for being a typist or a teacher temporarily, if at all, while waiting for Mr. Right to sweep her off her loafers, bring her home to his mother for a thorough once-over (Nice teeth, she'd say), and then straight to a tidy railroad apartment in the boroughs where she could carry on with the housekeeping, the cooking, the mothering, the drudgery of it all.

Girls today had choices. Charlotte had choices. She would get a college degree. She would be a professional. Together, she and JoJo were going to make names for themselves. And one day, and this they discussed only on nights when Coca-Cola wasn't the only dark liquid in the tumblers, they'd open their own agency. It was all decided. Charlotte could barely contain her excitement that her life was truly about to start. And that soon she'd be able to afford an apartment in Manhattan with a couple of the other girls. A life worth living, indeed.

She took one last look at the envelope and ripped it open. Her heart raced as she unfolded the single page and read its contents in haste. Once she got past the "We are unable to offer you ..." Charlotte lowered her head to her knees and cried. There was so much anticipation and emotion in every tear dropping onto the cracked concrete.

She had spent hours fantasizing about what it would be like to ride the elevator with purpose each morning; the way she'd spread her hands across the desk, absorbing the firmness and stability of the job; the skirts and blouses she'd hang according to outfit; and the journal she'd keep to ensure she didn't repeat an ensemble within a given week. So much time fantasizing about learning everything she could about advertising by reading the memos she would be asked to type, by listening extra carefully during the meetings for which she'd record notes, by lifting trade magazines from reception on her way out the door on Fridays. Those images flickered out like lightbulbs that had died emitting too much brightness.

Charlotte had anticipated that when she got her first job, she'd feel desired in a way no mother or lover ever could make her feel. She had little to no experience feeling desired by either a mother or a lover, so the disappointment in having to wait even longer felt almost violent. An assault against everything she had longed for. A barricade blocking her emergence from childhood to adulthood. The sense of relief that Charlotte had hoped to feel as a result of opening the letter was as long overdue as a forgotten library book wedged behind the sofa.

* * *

"That was the option. There are no other options, JoJo," Charlotte whispered into the phone so her mother wouldn't hear. She was crammed into the hall closet, smoking, the phone cord threaded under the door.

"I don't even know what to say."

"I know what my parents would say. You're too ambitious, Charlotte. Why don't you just marry Sam and settle down, Charlotte? Maybe they're right."

"Is that what you want?"

"No."

"I didn't think so. I thought you were done worrying about what you think you're supposed to do."

"I thought I was too."

"So what's your plan?"

"Brave Charlotte would start an entirely new job search and apply to more agencies. There has to be an empty typewriter somewhere on Madison Avenue."

"That's my girl. J. Walter Thompson doesn't know what they're missing."

"Hmmm. That's a great idea, JoJo. Thanks."

"What —" JoJo started. But Charlotte had already hung up.

Charlotte stubbed out her cigarette into the juice glass she'd brought into the closet. She knew her mother could smell the smoke, but Mrs. Friedman accepted the inevitability of Charlotte smoking as long as Charlotte didn't smoke directly in front of her. She had smoked herself for years before — well, before her hands had started trembling so terribly from grief that she once dropped the cigarette onto the rug and almost caused a fire. Since then she hadn't smoked, but Charlotte found it gave her own hands something to do. And that was helpful.

Luckily, Charlotte had her satchel in the closet and dialed the number on the JWT rejection letter. What the heck? she thought. Though not typically in her nature to be so forward — with boys, her parents, hemlines — Charlotte felt she had nothing to lose, everything to gain, and an obligation to her future self to give it a shot.

"Mr. Hertford, hello. This is Charlotte Friedman. I was an applicant for the typing pool?" she explained once the switchboard operator connected her to the man who had both interviewed her and broken her heart.

"Of course, Miss Friedman. What can I do for you, dear?"

"Mr. Hertford, I received your letter of rejection, and I wanted to convey my disappointment. I felt I was extremely qualified for the job, and working at J. Walter Thompson was far and away my first choice. Sir, I'm calling to ask if there's any chance you would reconsider." Charlotte took a deep breath.

"Well, well, Miss Friedman. It's not every day I have a girl calling like this. I must say I admire you for being a go-getter. But unfortunately we don't have additional opportunities available at this time."

"How about as a receptionist? I'm quite adept at the telephone, Mr. Hertford."

"I'm sure you are, dear. But we're fully staffed up front and on the switchboard, as well."

Charlotte was quiet.

"I promise to keep you in mind should anything change."

"Please do, Mr. Hertford. I wouldn't let you down. I absolutely promise."

"I'm sure you wouldn't, dear. Good day."

Charlotte slowly returned the handset to the receiver. She was proud of herself for making the call, but disappointed in its outcome. Perhaps this was one of those signs she had heard people talking about. Some universal force wagging a stumpy finger in her face and saying, You didn't get this job because you're not supposed to be working, you young, impressionable girl. Who do you think you are, anyway? You've completed almost four years of college. We gave you that. Now get your wits about you, child, and do what you're supposed to do. Reproduce!

After shutting the closet door behind her and replacing the telephone on the hall table, Charlotte walked to the kitchen to rinse out the juice glass. Her mother was working a crossword puzzle in pen and sitting at the small kitchen table, which was covered with Charlotte's grandmother's well-worn floral cloth.

Charlotte often caught her mother staring out the window, her lips moving but no sound coming out, something she'd been doing ever since they'd received the dreadful telegram that told them that Charlotte's brother, Harry, wouldn't be returning home from the war. Harry, in Charlotte's opinion, had been the only good thing about their family.

"Would you like some tea, Ma?" Charlotte asked.

"Just had some, but thanks."

Charlotte sat down and looked out the window.

"There's mail for you, Charlotte," Mrs. Friedman said, not looking up from the puzzle.

"There is? Where?" Charlotte, surprised she had missed it when she was looking through the mail pile earlier, immediately thought there must have been another agency she applied to that she hadn't heard from yet. Or maybe, J. Walter Thompson had sent her the rejection in error and this was the actual letter offering her a position and Mr. Hertford had simply forgotten. In the couple of seconds it took her to get from the kitchen to the hall table where her mother had left the envelope, Charlotte had considered the entire spectrum of possibilities. How wrong she was.

The return address bore no name, and the number on Park Avenue didn't provide a clue. Charlotte, certain it was a job offer, ripped the envelope open, pulled out the piece of heavy-stock cream paper, and read its contents. As shocked as a kite in a thunderstorm, Charlotte had to read the letter twice.

CHAPTER 2

OLIVIA THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 2018

"Did they call yet?" Thomas asked, rushing into the conference room, an extra-large coffee in one hand, a scrunched Starbucks bag in the other.

"You have a hair out of place, Thomas," Olivia said, smirking.

"Not yet," Matt said from his perch at the head of the large table. "They said nine o'clock." He glanced at his watch — he had chosen his great-grandfather's gold Rolex today, Olivia noticed — and then looked from Olivia to Thomas.

"They must just be tied up with pathetic consolation calls to the losers," Thomas said, stuffing an English muffin sandwich in his mouth.

"Classy," Olivia said, and gave Thomas a look.

"Come on, you two. Not now," Matt said.

"I didn't say a word," Thomas protested, his mouth a cavern of mangled egg.

"I heard from a friend at Y&R last night that Boss & Bates dropped out," Olivia said, looking at Matt.

"Really, why?" Thomas asked.

"Apparently, they weren't happy with their final presentation yesterday, so they withdrew rather than face an inevitable rejection. I guess they thought it would make them look better on the street," Olivia said.

"I guess they thought wrong, since it only makes them look like bigger losers," Thomas said, laughing and staring at Matt.

Matt didn't look up. He was typing into his phone.

The conference room phone rang with the internal tone. Matt grabbed it.

"Matt," he said into the receiver.

"Put it on speaker," Thomas said in a loud whisper.

"Great, thanks, Layne. Please put him through." Matt looked up at Olivia and Thomas and gave them a thumbs-up. "It's him."

"Speaker, Matt," Thomas said.

"Steve, good morning! It's Matt Osborne," Matt said, suddenly all smiles and bellowing voice.

"Speaker," Thomas hissed.

"Shut up," Olivia whispered to Thomas.

They both looked at Matt. He was still smiling.

"Thank you. We put our best into the concept and the storyboards. I'm really happy to hear you liked it," Matt said. He looked up quickly and smiled at Olivia and Thomas.

Olivia's stomach was in knots and had been since they'd gotten the invitation from Nike to pitch their new energy bar business. She had led the pitch and couldn't have been happier with their strategic direction and creative. The presentation seemed to have gone perfectly. "Seemed" being the operative word.

"I see," Matt said, and Olivia snapped out of her worry to look at him. His voice had changed. Olivia knew that voice too well, the you-liked-our-pitch-but-you're-not-going-to-award-us-the-business voice. "Can you tell me what it was that gave you reservations?" Matt was drawing circles with his pen on the pad in front of him, his mouth in a half smile. That mouth.

"Damn it!" Thomas shouted. "I knew it."

Matt looked up, gave Thomas an angry look, and put out his right hand in a calm-the-fuck-down gesture.

"I see. Well, thank you for your time, Steve, and for the opportunity to pitch the business. If things don't work out with JWT, give us a call. I know we'd be able to make you happy."

Matt placed the handset down and put his face in his hands.

"Shit! We needed that business," Thomas said, banging his fist on the table.

Matt looked up at Thomas and didn't say a word. Then Matt gave Olivia a sympathetic look. Or was that a smile? She'd never been able to read his expressions accurately when he was angry.

"Let's meet back here in an hour. Be prepared to discuss all of your accounts and billings down to the dime. We need to figure out our next steps," Matt said. He stood up and left the conference room, letting the door slam behind him.

"Jesus, Olivia, I told you to go with the first creative Pablo came up with."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Subway Girls"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Susie Orman Schnall.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Subway Girls: A Novel 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
KrittersRamblings 3 days ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings One of those books that has two storylines, one in the present and one in the past. I have to admit these are my favorite types of books, I get the historical fiction aspect, but also get to see something current and now. Also, usually there is a little mystery as to how these two stories are connected, it is all of the genres I love rolled into one! To focus on this book. In 1949 there is Charlotte and she has huge dreams for a woman of this time to work in advertising and be an independent career woman before she settles down and does the wife and kid thing. The current storyline revolves around Olivia and she works in advertising and is still feeling the effects of working in a "man's world."
Bookswithjams 10 months ago
Oh, I did not want this one to end!! The story went from past to present and told the story of two women, Charlotte and Olivia, who are both independent and trying to make a way for themselves with their careers. Charlotte's path is told in the late 1940s, and she wants to work in advertising, but is being told by her father that she has to help out with the family store that is going under, and she is struggling with duty vs. the path she wants for her life. Charlotte entered a contest to become one of the "Subway Girls" to try and help her father's store, thinking the publicity would draw customers. These were girls that won a contest each month to be featured on the NYC Subway with their picture and a writeup about themselves. Oftentimes, their ultimate goal was to become a model or to use it as a launchpad for their own careers. I had NO IDEA this was real and I was so fascinated by this piece of history! Olivia's path is told during the present day, and she currently is working in the advertising industry, has made a name for herself and is good at what she does, but still wants to do more. She has helped (or enabled) her mother to stay in an abusive relationship with her father, and as a result has medical debt (along with student loans) that she is struggling to pay. The paths of these two woman cross in a wonderful way, as Olivia needs to come up with an outstanding ad campaign for the MTA and comes across the Subway Girls. I loved how the author had the paths of the two women cross and the love interests were so well done. (Where can I find a Ben, btw? Ha!) I read this in two sittings because I could not put it down, and thoroughly enjoyed the entire book. This comes out July 10th, and I cannot recommend it enough! Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an electronic ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Driven women of past and present collide in ‘The Subway Girls’ The Subway Girls is as empowering as it is eye-opening. Whether you’ve known about the Miss Subways contest for years or are just hearing about it for the first time, if you enjoy well-written stories of love, sacrifice, and highly driven women, you’ll want to pick up a copy of this beautiful novel.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Loved it from the beginning, couldn’t put it down.
Anonymous 11 months ago
I expected historical fiction. The premise is fascinating -- two women in advertising at the dawn of the golden age of advertising, just post World War II. The setting is New York City. The young women are up against daunting odds to break into the world of work in a time when women were supposed to be married, raising families, and not working, especially in rough and tumble advertising. Excited at the prospect of a gripping story, I started reading. Within a few pages, I stopped. I looked at all the glowing reviews, had anticipated adding my own to the lot, but I cannot. The stilted language and constant harping on inequity, woe, education did me in.... I am sorry that I could not continue with the book, having received an advance copy from Netgalley for my honest opinion. My honest opinion is that this book is not for me. While I do read a fair amount of historical fiction and enjoy it greatly, this book did not work for me -- is possibly a joy for another reader.
brf1948 12 months ago
The Subway Girls follows the lives of Charlotte from March 3, 1949 through July 11, 1949 and that of Olivia from March 1, 2018 to March 16, 2018 as viewed through the eyes of Mrs. Glasser, Miss Subways of July 1, 1949. Miss Subways was essentially a beauty competition of young women from the greater NYC area run by the New York Subways Advertising Company. Up to 1,400 copies of photos of the monthly winners adorned the advertising wall in subway cars in order to draw the eyes of male riders to that wall. Though the method of choosing Miss Subways varied over the years, she was always a local resident, girl-next-door wholesome in appearance, and a New York City Subway user in real life. It was a very successful ad campaign that ran from 1941 through 1976. Around 200 women held the title of Miss Subways over the run of this program. Both women we encounter in The Subway Girls were avid feminists and well educated for their time, both were radically independent and insistent that women in general and certainly they themselves should be able to pursue their chosen careers even if it meant sacrificing the idea of marriage and children. Both women were already in a relationship with their life love, so they knew what that sacrifice would involve. This was an interesting novel. I enjoyed the look into the minds of both Charlotte and Olivia, and the details of both NYC and the family interactions and neighborhoods of these ladies. I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Susie Orman Schnall and St. Martin's Press, Griffin in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.
412037RH 12 months ago
I loved this book! If you like the t.v.show, Mad Men, you will lve this book. It is abut two women one from 1949 and one from 2018. It is about the struggles they have in there careers and there personal life although they are similar they are different with how time changed for women. We are fortunate that women faught for equal rights or we would not be where we are today. We think that the past was easier but in a lot of ways is was more difficult and women were limited. The history of Ms.Subway is so interesting and I am glad that Susie Schnall wrote about it. Thank you for letting me review this book!
412037RH 12 months ago
I loved this book! If you like the t.v.show, Mad Men, you will lve this book. It is abut two women one from 1949 and one from 2018. It is about the struggles they have in there careers and there personal life although they are similar they are different with how time changed for women. We are fortunate that women faught for equal rights or we would not be where we are today. We think that the past was easier but in a lot of ways is was more difficult and women were limited. The history of Ms.Subway is so interesting and I am glad that Susie Schnall wrote about it. Thank you for letting me review this book!
mweinreich More than 1 year ago
4.5 highly worthwhile stars 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 just 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' 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.
mweinreich More than 1 year ago
4.5 highly worthwhile stars 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 just 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' 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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I received a free ARC of this book from Netgalley. I really loved this book. I used to hate books that jump back and forth in time, but this one is about two different women and it was easy to keep them apart in my head despite the many similarities they face in the 1940s and 2018 society. I find it fascinating that The Subway Girls was really an advertising campaign used in the 1940s-1970s.
Rhonda-Runner1 More than 1 year ago
I received an ARC of this book fromNetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was captivated by this book from the first few pages. The story parallels two women, Charlotte whose story takes place in 1949 and Olivia's story in 2018. Charlotte is getting read to graduate from college and is trying to get into advertising via getting into a typing pool at an advertising agency. The family paint/wallpaper store is falling on hard times and her father wants her to work in the store. Modern day Olivia is working for an advertising agency and is in love with her boss. The story spans decades and is a combination of historical and contemporary fiction and what an enchanting delightful read it is with strong characters and a good story line. I loved this book and highly recommend it.
CrawfishQueen More than 1 year ago
This is a terrific book. It plays off of an advertising competition in present day with flashbacks to the Subway Girls competition 70 years ago. I loved the interplay between the two time periods and two voices. It was a very interesting depiction of the obstacles faced by women in the workplace and in making their life choices in the past AND in the present. At first I found switching between the voices a little difficult but as I began to see the connections I found myself reading faster to see what would be revealed in the next segment! The main female characters were engaging and very likable, but their flaws and faults weren’t downplayed. Since it was told in female voices, the male characters were a little less complex and more “typed”, but still well done. The romance was sweet and not overplayed. It was a fast read since I was so caught up in the book. I highly recommend it.
Fredreeca2001 More than 1 year ago
Olivia is in competition to win an add campaign for NYC Transit Authority. She comes across an old add campaign called The Subway Girls. This leads her to find more than just history. It could lead her to find love! This story rotates between the present and the past, between Charlotte and Olivia. Charlotte was an original subway girl. She has her own tale to weave. And it intersects with Olivia, very conveniently, I might add. I do not want to give anything away…just read the book! Olivia is not one of my favorite characters. She makes some really stupid decisions and she does not fight for herself like I expect her to. She is in advertising. A very competitive profession. She does not seem to have the edge needed to be where she is. I enjoy the flow of this book. The rotation between time periods is superbly done. There is almost a cliff hanger after every chapter and this kept me reading faster and faster. I also love the history in this tale. I actually researched more about the subways girls original add campaign. I love a book that’s has me researching! Don’t miss this one!
ethel55 More than 1 year ago
This was a charming read, taking place in post war NYC and in the present day. Both Charlotte and Olivia, separated by many decades, are focused on advertising career aspirations. In 1949, Charlotte tries to juggle finishing school, losing her only brother in the war and finding a way to help her father with the family business. The Subway Girls contest seems like a godsend at a time when most of her mail was rejection letters for work. In 2018, Olivia is trying to woo the Transit commission at a boutique marketing firm and unearths the Subway Girls promotion as a way to recapture some of their past. I kept wanting more from each section of this dual narrative, it quickly changed back and forth.
LauraMHartman More than 1 year ago
Charlotte is clever, bright and educated. She longs to work in Marketing. Even though she is about to graduate from college, she can’t get a job at any of the firms she has applied to. It isn’t that she wants to start at the top; as a matter of fact she is willing to start in the typing pool and work her way up. This is a long shot for a young woman in 1949. To add more misery to her world, her father’s hardware store isn’t doing well, so he wants her to work for him instead of getting a job that actually pays so he can fire his last employee. Her age is another deterrent. No one wants to hire someone as old as twenty-one. It is almost a certainty that she is just waiting to get engaged, married and immediately after resign to take care of her husband, home and however many children they have in quick succession. Charlotte wants more from life, including a career at a marketing firm. Olivia lives in a world where women can hold almost any job that a man can. They may not get equal pay, but in 2018 women are much more likely to be taken seriously. It appears to be true, but when Olivia’s job becomes a contest between the other manager at her marketing firm and her, only one of them will still be employed when all is said and done. It doesn’t seem to matter that she has brilliant ideas; the “good old boy” network is alive and well. Unfortunately, her competition will do anything to have the best campaign for the New York Subway system. To boost their ridership, the NY Subway needs something new with a twist of retro and even though Olivia comes up with great ideas, will she be heard? Meantime, back in 1949, Charlotte has personal and professional issues. She wins a contest to be a Subway Girl that she entered on a whim. They are New York gals that are smart and pretty. Charlotte cleverly thinks if she can mention her father’s store during the campaign it will be on all of the subway cars, therefore free marketing so she won’t have to work in the family business and can further pursue her dream. Olivia reads about the Subway Girls and feels it is a great idea that would stand up today. It will be retro with a new spin, landing right where the client wants it to be. After doing her research, she even locates a few of the gals who posed for the Subway Girl posters fifty years ago. Susie Orman Schnall does a marvelous job melding 1949 with 2018. So much is different, and yet, so much is the same. She cleverly alternates chapters between Charlotte and Olivia, taking the reader seamlessly from one story to the other until they blend beautifully in the last few chapters. The struggles each girl experiences in her personal and professional life are universal through time. The Subway Girls is a fast paced, interesting novel. The characters are well developed and the plot line is interesting and complex. Often times women’s fiction has too much romance and whining involved for me, which is definitely not the case with this fantastic book. There was a subplot of romance, but not to the extent of overtaking the story. This novel is just the right amount of everything. I loved it. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman
IrishEyes430 More than 1 year ago
Two women, different generations, very different but yet have much in common. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The characters are complex and well developed. This book is very timely in its view of womens’ issues that are being addressed right now. I highly recommend this book for women of all ages.
Whippetreads More than 1 year ago
I was given an early release copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book based on the actual subway girls. The story follows the lives of Olivia, a young advertising executive in 2018 and Charlotte, a young subway girl who longs for a career in advertising in the forties. The book is based on the actual subway girl advertising campaign that featured images of young women displayed on New York City subways in the 1950s-1950s. Enjoyable, interesting, and like nothing I have ever read: this one is not to be missed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Subway Girls is the 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. This is is an absolutely charming read and a bit of historical fiction Set in 1949, in fabulous New York City, the lives of two women (Charlotte and Olivia) are absolutely parrelled. The title references the “Miss Subway Pageant”, the winner of which would have her picture printed on posters and hung up on various New York City subway trains. This story, a commentary on women’s equality in the workplace and women’s roles within present society, The Subway Girls explores sexism and gender profiling within its two stories; illustrating the advances women have made, and the struggles they still face. The Subway Girls is, at times, a light read but sure to not disappoint.
sandralb More than 1 year ago
This was my first book by this author. Susie Orman Schall intertwines contemporary and historical settings/stories in such a flawless way. She writes a very interesting novel. The first character of our story is 21 year old Charlotte Friedman. The time period is 1949. The place New York and the plot is about the Miss Subways beauty contest. Seventy years later, our second heroine is Olivia. The time period is 2018, and our character is a head strong advertising executive. I found it interesting that these two strong determined women, although so far apart in time periods, faced a lot of the same issues. They were two women pursuing their dreams and looking for true happiness. This was a story that kept me guessing until the end. Then left me wanting more. I received a copy of this book from St. Martin's Griffin Publishers through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
BettyTaylor More than 1 year ago
This was a delightful book revealing a piece of NYC history that I imagine few are aware of. The Historical Note section of the book states: “Miss Subways was a contest that took place in the New York City subway system from 1941 to 1976.” It gave subway riders something to look at during their rides. (Yes, there was time pre-cellphones that people had nothing to stare mindlessly at.) Told in alternating viewpoints are the stories of Charlotte Friedman (1949) and present-day Olivia Harrison. Charlotte lived during the time that women just did not have family and careers both, but she yearned to work in the world of advertising. She entered the Miss Subways contest in opposition to her father’s demand that she help with the family business. Olivia is an advertising executive trying to win the NYC subways account. In her search for a strategy to pitch she discovers documentation of the Miss Subways contest. Both women desire it all which leads to disappointment and heartbreak. I found the historical aspect very interesting. However, the storylines themselves were very predictable and contrived. This is why, even though I really enjoyed the book, I could not rate it as five stars.
Aqswr More than 1 year ago
Women seeking to please others in their lives, rather than coming to terms with their own needs and desires, is a common theme in two generations separated by 69 years in THE SUBWAY GIRLS. In this tale, the two women also share a desire to work in advertising in New York, admittedly a rarefied profession. In 1949, the best the young college grad can hope for is the typing pool, as she watches young men constantly pass her by on their way up the corporate ladder. In 2018, the early 30-something watches her male co-workers steal her ideas as her boss winks and allows it. The story is filled with nice historical details and a compelling drama that resolves well. This is a fast read that is engaging in all the right ways. A good summer read. I received by copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
Meldawoman More than 1 year ago
I really liked and enjoyed this book. It is historical fiction that tells the story of The Subway Girls, local New York women who actually rode the subways and then were featured in posters that were displayed in the cars along the subway. The story of the women was fascinating, but the fictional story was a little contrived and too convenient. I read the book in a day because it was interesting, albeit a little fluffy. If you are from New York, you will definitely love the book. I am not from New York and I still loved the story of women in the workforce post WWII. It is a fast read.
Jolie More than 1 year ago
I like reading women’s fiction and historical fiction, I have had issues finding books that can focus on both of those genres. They are few and far between. So when I read the blurb for The Subway Girls, I almost didn’t get this book. I almost passed it over. I am glad that I didn’t because I would have missed a fantastic book that takes place in 1949 and present day. I liked how the storylines mirrored each other. I didn’t get confused when going between the time periods because they were doing (or trying to get into) the same field of work. Even the mindset of the men (past and present) were the same. The only time the storylines stopped mirroring each other was when Charlotte was in the Miss Subways contest and Olivia was working on finding a way to keep her job. Even then, it was only for a couple of chapters. Then it was right back to mirroring each other. I thought Charlotte was progressive for her time. She was trying to get into a field that was dominated by men (think Don Draper). She was optimistic until she got the last rejection letter. I liked how she called the guy and told him to keep her in mind. She had no real interest in doing the beauty contest, she entered on a whim. She needed the money but thought that she would at least have a job if they got back to her. I loved her reaction to being asked to do something that she was uncomfortable with. I was chanting “You go girl” the entire time. I liked Olivia but I felt that she wasn’t as developed as Charlotte’s character was at first. Then she gained depth. She was a strong person but she also had a certain vulnerability to her. I didn’t get her being in love with her boss. I felt that the book didn’t have to go that way. I also felt that her co-worker was a little too hostile to women. Considering what happened at the end of the book, I wasn’t surprised. But still. I liked how she made time for her elderly next door neighbor and her grandson. Rose’s betrayal set the tone for the last half of the book. Not going to get into it but Charlotte did the absolute right thing when she did what she did. I loved how the author brought the two storylines together. How I didn’t see what I didn’t see is beyond me. The author did a great job at keeping Ben’s grandmother’s identity a secret. There were a few red herrings thrown out. Same goes for Olivia’s Subway Girls revival. I was so mad when the events happened the way they did. I should mention that the contest was based on a contest that was run in New York City. The author had an afterward where she described how she took that contest and made it her own. The end of the book cleared up some details that I figured out but needed to see in print. I like that it ended happily but realistically.
SandraHoover More than 1 year ago
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!