Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
“A group of people trying to hold it together amidst fragmentation”
Daisy Jones and The Six begins as it means to go on; at a heady pace, rich in style and decadence. Heard through the voices of Daisy, the band members, managers and the narrator herself, it is easy to get hooked up in each’s expectations, entanglements and addictions, as the band members rise to fame, some more than others, surfing the highs and lows of the onset of fame. These are a group of people who bounce off each other, sometimes to magnificent effect and yet at other times, straight into a brick wall. Daisy is instantly recognisable as a 1970’s Janice Joplin, mixed with Stevie Nicks type; fiercely independent, yet wearing a mask to hide abandonment, emptiness and underneath all the fame, a sorrowful invisibility, carried from earlier days: “My dad said, did you break the coffee maker this morning?” I said, “Dad, I don’t even live here.”
Daisy isn’t a shallow character, as one might imagine at the start of the book, and we are drawn to how easily it is for her to be both naturally brilliant and immensely vulnerable. The other characters also play to our love of the dysfunctional; they bond or clash, sometimes at the same time, and if anything, you may be left wanting to know more about those other voices, which may have given the book another dimension, other than the focus of Daisy and Billy’s on and off stage relationship and Billy’s battle to control his addictions, with a side-helping of Camila, trying to hold family life together.
We do get glimpses of other relationships such as fellow band member Eddie’s frustrations at being side-lined and Karen and Graham’s mediocre attempt at attachment yet it’s a little predictable. Maybe the style of writing, as dialogue only, has a slight limit as we can’t see behind that to actual action and behaviours. However, having said that, the dialogue keeps it quite edgy and the story does have substance, keeping you turning the pages. You do believe that this is what Daisy and the band (and those connected to them) went through; it is a story we think we all know, told in an engaging and spirited tone.
The female characters are a joy to read, they are all empowered in their own ways. Camila, Billy’s wife, may seem a mug at times, yet she is in the relationship on her own terms and it’s refreshing to see a female band member given as much time in the book as Karen is, although not sure about her joke name (she mis-hears and says her name twice, so “Karen Karen just stuck”), as in real life this would wear very thin! At times the characters fall into stereotype yet there are a vibrant mix of voices which gives a feel of Spinal Tap meets Fleetwood Mac. The context surrounding the writing is lovely, with attention to detail nicely weaved to, even down to hair with the scent of rosemary. The book works very well set in the 1970’s, and the passage of time and pace keeps us alert.
Daisy Jones & The Six is very easy to read and catchy; you really don’t want to put it down. The song list at the end, and the scatterings of dynamic and powerful (yet sadly also fictional) lyrics throughout are also a clever touch and add to the believability, indeed from the very start it is easy to think you are reading a true story. I am not sure if the narrative style stays fully convincing as the book continues, yet the to-and-from style is fun, especially when the characters contradict each other; we all know what it’s like when a few of us have different memories of the same event, ejecting conflicting voices, stories, memories. The ‘he said, she said’ is entertaining and the dialogue is easy to hear from the characters mouths, such as Daisy and Billy’s conflict over the song-writing, what we could see as ego’s bid for the top spot, were it not for the underlying tension of their relationship at the heart of the story. “It’s like some of us are chasing after our nightmares the way other people chase dreams.”
Overall, although possibly not bringing a massively new perspective to the rock and roll lifestyle or breaking stereotypes as such, the female presence is appealing. The women are strong and self-willed and this may be due to the book being written as a present day reflection and a wish of the author to give voices to women that may not have been written about had the book itself appeared in the 1970’s. You do get a sense of how women were expected to behave in that era and the women in the book do push these boundaries, yet the voices in the present day at the end, haven’t moved on, and there could have been more impact here in terms of highlighting women’s reflections on their lives, past, present and future.
Overall, Daisy Jones and The Six is very digestible. It’s a fun read, a perfect holiday or curl up on the sofa kind of story, which is likely to send you straight to your favourite playlist!
About Taylor Jenkins Reid
Taylor Jenkins Reid is an established author of several novels featuring strong female characters. Her latest book, Daisy Jones & The Six lifts the lid on an iconic 1970’s band’s rise to fame, and ensuing destruction; a pacey and engaging narrative which is currently being made into a Netflix series. She is also well known for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which recounts the life of a Hollywood film icon and her conversations with a young unknown female reporter, with both characters having to face some difficult truths.
Other work includes One True Loves, Maybe In Another Life, After I do and Forever Interrupted. Love and loss appear as common themes throughout the books, and the writing sways more towards emotional interest over action. Conversations, histories and ‘what ifs’ are prevalent. Her writing style is catchy, entertaining, easy to read and engages the reader’s attention quickly. Her characters are sometimes not immediately likeable, which is heard in reviews for Evelyn Hugo in particular, which gives an essence of realism which readers can identify with. The books are mainstream reads, often referred to as ‘chick-lit’, and all inspire mostly favourable reviews, the only hesitation at times, being that characters can be a little predictable and the storytelling can sometimes lean towards a chronological timeline, rather than an active immersion in the moment.
Reid has a wonderful ability to capture the essence of the period in which the books are set, for example, Daisy Jones and The Six just exudes 1970 hedonism, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo provides the glamour and drama of an Elizabeth Taylor style Hollywood era. These latest two books lend towards a certain narrative, that of telling through an interview style, a departure from her earlier works.
Reid lives in Los Angeles and her work is born from her experience living and working from a place where fame, fortune and an aspiration of a certain lifestyle is prevalent, and this carries through in some of her characters; we feel we know them in some way, as most of us know of the ups and downs of fame, yet Reid also has the capacity to write everyday characters, lamenting lost relationships and finding new paths. The books will have a certain audience, and are very popular amongst women readers, as the voices are very female led.