Title: Daisy Jones & The Six (2019)
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Read: 3rd – 7th April 2019
Genre: historical fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
“They were the new icons of rock and roll, fated to burn bright and not fade away. But on 12 July 1979, it all came crashing down. There was Daisy, rock and roll force of nature, brilliant songwriter and unapologetic drug addict, the half-feral child who rose to superstardom. There was Camila, the frontman’s wife, too strong-willed to let the band implode – and all too aware of the electric connection between her husband and Daisy. There was Karen, ice-cool keyboardist, a ferociously independent woman in a world that wasn’t ready for her. And there were the men surrounding them: the feuding, egotistical Dunne brothers, the angry guitarist chafing on the sidelines, the drummer binge-drinking on his boat, the bassist trying to start a family amid a hedonistic world tour. They were creative minds striking sparks from each other, ready to go up in flames. It’s never just about the music…” (Synopsis from publisher)
Told through snippets of what seems like interview transcripts, Daisy Jones and The Six recounts the rise (and fall) of said band and their enigmatic front-woman. I’ll start off this review by admitting that I like music, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m big on a particular decade or style of it. I don’t covet one particular band especially strongly, not enough to follow them on their tours or read every magazine article about them or watch every interview with them. Yet, despite all this, I somehow immediately found the focus of this book around a fictional iconic 1970s rock group to be incredibly compelling – I think it was because I could see parallels to famous artists and I spent a lot of the time when I was reading this listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album because it just felt right. This book felt so real, as did Daisy Jones and the characters she came into contact with, and the entire vibe of this book, I imagine, perfectly encapsulated the hedonistic setting of the music scene in 1970s Los Angeles.
“Which is what we all want from art, isn’t it? When someone pins down something that feels like it lives inside us? Takes a piece of your heart out and shows it to you? It’s like they are introducing you to a part of yourself.”
If this book and her previous is anything to go by, the author’s particular storytelling skill lies completely in her characterisation and character development. All of the characters in Daisy Jones and The Six have such strong personal voices and it’s easy to pick up their personalities and priorities as the story progresses and we see their friendship tested by sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Although there are stories of growth and redemption and development amongst the male characters of the story, I think the female characters in particular are extremely well done. As the synopsis above suggests, there emerges something of a trio in Daisy, Camila, and Karen – each of them have completely different personalities and strengths (and weaknesses) but I rooted for each and every one of them throughout the novel, even (or maybe especially) when they weren’t exactly making the best/wisest decisions for their lives. Although Daisy is the titular character here and obviously is a central focus for the novel (particularly though her tumultuous relationship with The Six frontman, Billy Dunne), it’s important for a reader not to discount the secondary and side characters who orbit around these two strong personalities – and Reid doesn’t discount them in the least either.
“Men often think they deserve a sticker for treating women like people.”
Because of the interview-style format, you frequently see instances of characters saying one thing and another character directly contradicting them in the very next breath, or, as a reader, you are able to tell that what a character has said is a purposeful misremembering of what actually happened, often to make themselves seem the better person after a disagreement with the rest of the band. In this way, Taylor Jenkins Reid has made a very shrewd choice in how to tell the story at hand, and I think the book wouldn’t have been as interesting if it had been told in a more traditional format or viewpoint.
“You have to have one person in your life that you know would never do anything to steer you wrong. They may disagree with you. They could even break your heart, from time to time. But you have to have one person, at least, who you know will always tell you the truth.”
Moreover, I chose to listen to the book via audiobook as well as read the hardback copy I owned and I thought this was a wise decision, once I’d worked out which voice belonged to which character. Although that’s a bit of a learning curve at first, once you’re au fait with who’s who in the band, it becomes very easy to sink back into the story at any point and remember who everyone is and how they feel about each other – whether they hate or love each other or have some past tension that affects their “current”. I’d thoroughly recommend trying out the audiobook, I think this was a good example of how that medium can be well-used when the book’s format is already screaming out to be a TV show in the style of a mockumentary about the lives and loves of Daisy Jones and The Six. The fact that a TV show is in development is the icing on the cake.
“You can justify anything. If you’re narcissistic enough to believe that the universe conspires for and against you—which we all are, deep down—then you can convince yourself you’re getting signs about anything and everything.”
Yet again Taylor Jenkins Reid has proven her skill in creating such believable, flawed, and (ultimately) human characters who feel so real. There was many a time during this book when I found myself picking up my phone to Google one of The Six’s album covers, or starting to type their names into Spotify to play one of their songs, only to remember that they didn’t exist. The same thing happened when I read Reid’s previous book, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – for the time in which I was reading the book, I was completely hooked, and felt as though I was genuinely reading the memoir or ‘tell all’ of what had happened in this famous eponymous figure’s life. The author clearly has a knack of getting you to simultaneously hate and love characters – often the same one, in fact – and shows that a character doesn’t have to be purely ‘good’ or ‘morally upstanding’ to make you care deeply about them or hope that their life turns out ok in the end.
“I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse. I am not a muse. I am the somebody. End of fucking story.”