I know I’m not alone in saying I’ve been highly anticipating Taylor Jenkins Reid’s brand new Daisy Jones and the Six ever since reading and loving her previous novel, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. In some ways Reid’s two most recent books are very different, but I think on the whole they will largely appeal to the same audience.
In the novel, a writer decides to track down and interview everyone with a connection to infamous rock band Daisy Jones and the Six, a major music phenom of the 1970’s. Through a series of interviews, the band members and their associates recount exactly (or as close as they can recall) what happened to bring the band together and then tear it apart.
The biggest difference between Daisy Jones and the Six and Seven Husbands is the narration style- Daisy Jones is written entirely in snippets of dialogue taken from interviews, and formatted like a documentary script. The characters reveal thoughts and actions and conversations from the past, but the interviews take place years later, in/near present day; this allows the book the advantage of taking the reader through the band’s heyday in the 70’s as though the events are happening for the first time, but also lends an appealing air of nostalgia. There are, of course, limits to this narrative style, and in some places the level of specificity given to details from 30+ years prior feels implausible, but overall Reid does a great job of displaying and explaining inconsistencies and differences of opinion between characters; those small moments of disbelief can often be chalked up to faulty memories, eroded by time and emotion. The style won’t work for every reader, though I would bet it’s an interesting audiobook if you find yourself struggling with the printed format.
But logistics aside, Daisy Jones is such a MOOD. I have not been able to stop listening to 70’s and 80’s rock vinyl since I opened the book, and have been binging band films. This book is fictional, but Reid has clearly done her research and The Six feels like it could have been a real band. Even the casual/confessional approach to addictions and bad behavior adds to the atmosphere of the rock scene in this iconic era.
“Drinking, drugging, sleeping around, it’s all the same thing. You have these lines you won’t cross. But then you cross them. And suddenly you possess the very dangerous information that you can break the rule and the world won’t instantly come to an end. You’ve taken a big, black, bold line and you’ve made it a little bit gray. And now every time you cross it again, it just gets grayer and grayer until one day you look around and you think, There was a line here once, I think.”
One of the upsides to turning this sort of story into a novel is that the music is all up to the reader’s mind- there are lyrics from the band’s biggest album printed in the back of the book, but of course we can’t hear what Daisy Jones and The Six might have sounded like; each reader can make the band their own, in a way. If you like any band from the 70s or thereabouts, you’ve got an extra shot at enjoying this story.
Though extremely fun to read, however, once I started getting into listening to real music and watching band films I did wonder what the point of creating a fictional story like this could be, with so much real material out there and more in the works. But I did come up with an answer: I believe the Point of investing in a fictional band story lies not in the music or even in shedding light on the historical moment, but in the social commentary Reid is able to layer into this modern take on it. She delivers women who see themselves as equals, whether or not they were treated as such at the time. She gives the least-glamorous band members a chance at their own voices and perspective. She talks about the drugs and alcoholism many successful bands ran the risk of falling into without romanticizing them. When frontman Billy Dunne pushes his ideas without consulting the others (again), he’s called out on it.
“He was just pissed because I knew how much power I had and he would have preferred I either not know it or not use it. I am sorry but that is not my style. I mean, it shouldn’t be anybody’s really.”
I could almost argue that this isn’t a book about rock at all, but about the challenges of overcoming addiction and making tough choices that are ultimately the right call. Reid has filled this story with such relatable personalities and timeless messages that the music on the surface comes off as only one layer of the depth Daisy Jones and the Six has to offer. My only real complaint is that things get a little sickly sweet when the writer’s identity is revealed toward the end, but the story’s final note won me back over. This book was a hit for me, and I’m sure it will be for many readers.
My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. Though I think Seven Husbands is perhaps the more accomplished of Reid’s most recent work, Daisy Jones was an absolute delight to read from the first page to the last. I won’t be forgetting this story or these characters any time soon, and I can’t wait to see how this will turn out in film. I’m so on board for whatever Reid writes next.
The Literary Elephant