REVIEW; DAISY JONES AND THE SIX – TAYLOR JENKINS REID

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.
Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.
Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.
Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.
The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.”
5/5 stars.


I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of this gem before its official release, and with all the encouragement and excitement from Jenny, and my own high expectations, I couldn’t not pick it up immediately, and goodness I’m glad that I did! Unlike most people that I know, this was actually my first dive into Taylor Jenkins Reid’s work, and what a great book to introduce me to her writing. I’d heard nothing but wonderful things about her, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo high up on my TBR, one of my most anticipated reads for when I do eventually get around to it, and I haven’t met a single person yet who has given it less than a five star glowing review. I knew that I needed to give her a shot, and that I just had to find out what all the fuss was about, and Daisy Jones was the perfect introduction to the sheer wonder of her writing.

This book is written by means of an interview, a journalist sitting down with Daisy Jones, the members of popular seventies band The Six, and various other people of significance in their lives, all of whom recount their version of the events that happened so many years ago. We start out by learning that Daisy is born in 1951, with the book kicking off to in 1965, when she was just fourteen years old. Their story, Daisy’s story, several years, with the band splitting in 1979, when Daisy was just 28 years old. These recounts take place in the present day, with those in question reaching their late 60’s to early 70’s, meaning that it took up 40 years for anyone to be able to finally uncover the truth of what happened.

The format of this book makes for an extremely easy read, but never in a way that undermines Reid’s talent. This wasn’t a story that needed long, winding chapters describing the cut of Daisy’s hair, or the exact shade of Eddie’s guitar, nor did it need intricate details describing the cities that they travelled to and the vast expanse of land they crossed. Sometimes painting a scene and creating a setting, details upon details, can be so fulfilling and it can allow you to immerse yourself in these visuals, to lose yourself in your own imagination and paint a picture of your own. Other times, like in this book, it’s entirely unnecessary and, I believe, had the book been told in such a manner, it wouldn’t packed quite as much of a punch as it did.

In fact, one of my favourite aspects, despite being one of the most infuriating things to encounter, was the way you were always left with even the tiniest sliver of uncertainty in the back of your mind. No matter which characters you attached yourself to and which ones you didn’t, no matter who you felt like you could trust, there was always a niggling voice in the back of your head asking; But which one of you is telling the truth? Because no matter what, the whole course of the book, we’re reading from each person’s separate narrative, rather than just a singular voice telling you exactly what happened, how it happened, where it happened, and when. In Daisy Jones & The Six you’re listening to Eddie talk about how unjustly and harshly Billy treated him, followed by Billy remembering the scenario in an entirely different way, topped off by Graham regarding the whole situation with bewilderment, entirely baffled as to what had lead them there in the first place. There is never an accurate source, each person putting their own spin on how things went down, leaving you to wonder just who is twisting things for their own sake, who is telling the truth as they know it, and how the years have warped and mangled their perceptions of events.

This conflict within the narrative grew all the more clear the further I got into the book, starting out as minor details that could easily have been mixed up, misunderstood, to entire memories being told from one perspective, and every other witness claiming a different version of events. There’s a particular example of exactly this, about a third of the way into the book, when Daisy is on stage, having just completed her set, Billy at her side. In this instance, Daisy is on as a support act for The Six, so contracts and schedules would imply that the second they walked onto the stage, she should have already been gone. That being said, the following interaction (if you could call it that) unfolded:

Daisy: As they were all walking out, I whispered into Billy’s ear, “Should I leave?” And he shook his head no. So I joined in, started harmonizing when I could, banging my tambourine. It was such a fun show being up there with them the whole time.
Billy: I don’t remember why Daisy stayed that night. I think I assumed she’d leave but when she didn’t, I thought, Alright, then. I guess she’s staying. I mean, the whole night was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of deal.”

This, of course, begs the question, who is telling the truth? Does Billy truly not recall the events of that night? Or, was there merely just a misunderstanding, the noise of the crowd, the adrenaline coursing through their veins, muffling Daisy’s words and leaving them both asking and answering two entirely different questions? Indeed, this is one of those more subtle moments, not anything that could have truly harmed anybody in the process; they put on a great show, the dynamic ever shifting.

There are often moments when writing my reviews where I struggle to toe the line between what I can and can’t say. I never want to spoil anything, but I always want to rant and rave about all my favourite characters, dynamics, lines, and scenes. I can’t always say I do a great job of keeping things neutral and simmering down, but I am going to try and, at the very least, narrow the rest of my review down to certain stand out aspects.

NOSTALGIA

As a lot of people will already know, this is a book that’d been widely compared to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, not to mention having countless references throughout the narrative to the likes of Bowie, Hendrix, and other such legends. For anyone who’s a fan of rock music – the chaotic, messy atmosphere, the drugs, the sex, the sensual and often arrogant attitudes often associated with the scene – or anyone who’s fond of those retro 70s vibes, this is the perfect book. It’s a story that takes you back in time, to an era that many of us young readers (myself included) weren’t even born for. This is a book that gives you a taster of the exact headlines that you might have seen plastered across tabloids and magazines, an inkling of the atmospheres across clubs and arenas from those more musically inclined, and even a little insight into the way fashion has progressed (or, perhaps, in some cases regressed) over the years.

With Reid listening to music from Fleetwood Mac to The kinks to Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, mingled in with some of her more modern inspirations such as Harry Styles and The Civil Wars, this book allows you to take a dive into a long since past era of music, while still keeping a toe dipped into the present day. Despite each character’s accounts of the events taking place in real time, being told to us in a present day setting, it’s so easy to lose yourself in their words, in these flashbacks, their reminiscing taking you all the way back with them, giving you a vivid image of just how things might have gone down and taken place, as though you were right there with them when it first unfolded.

In fact, even some of the more unreliable revisions of what happened – with characters’ stories often conflicting and never completely matching up – you get a clear cut view of the way each person’s attitudes have changed over the years – or, in some cases, haven’t – and how so much of their behaviour was merely a product of the time and the environment. Even in real life, stepping away from this novel, the world has come along in a lot of different ways socially and politically, with various different events paving the way for us to open up conversations that just weren’t being had. Even such instances as gender politics, or the matter of consent, have become two issues that have been widely raised over the past few years, with people finally taking a stand and raising the issue on what is and isn’t right, and allowing people to change the way that we, as a society, handle such conflicts. I’m going to get chatting a little more about the feminism within this book a little later, but the obvious contrast between the way that women were treated and regarded by the men in this book, and often times even the way that they viewed themselves as a product of how society had taught them to consider themselves, compared to the way that people are finally starting to open their eyes and re-evaluate their actions was utterly dazzling. In the same light, the way that the narrative often referred back to other people within the business, their relationship towards younger women, in a professional and a sexual capacity, and the way that young girls are often taken advantage of within the industry, was painfully reflective of some of the high-brow cases that have started making the news in recent years. More and more we’re hearing stories of people in positions of power – actors, musicians, directors, writers, politicians, police officers – who use their status as a means to get – and take – what they want, and always with little-to-no repercussions for their actions. I thought that this book actually paralleled that in a really subtle way, with the occasional nod towards music executives and even members of others bands, referencing to their relations with young girls, or even through Daisy – we get a very clear view of the how she started in the industry, and how she made her way to the top; starting from an incredibly young age, falling in with the wrong crowds, and even finding herself in compromising positions with those in charge of her. Countless times our core characters refer back to instances such as these, or other such scenarios that they had witnessed – or even some of the more tame, less controversial interactions that they’d had with each other in the past – and reflect on the way their views have changed over the years, and often reprimand themselves for the decisions they made or the views that they once held.

The nostalgia within this book, and the way that it takes you back to a past setting is expertly done and a testament to Reid’s writing that she can take even a younger reader back to an era that they never knew. But also, she address the gritty aspects of the era as she expertly weaves real, true to life scenarios into her writing in a way that addresses the politics of how our society is ever changing over the years, in a way that is subtle and never preachy, but also by inviting us all to deepen a conversation that is continually being had, but is certainly a direct parallel between the culture of the 70s and the culture of today.

SHOCK FACTOR

This is not a book that I necessarily expected to surprise me as often as it did. In fact, I don’t think I quite expected such a whirlwind of emotions, nor the whiplash that I experienced with each turn of the page. Certainly, I never thought that it would bore me, or that I wouldn’t be in for a wild ride; I always had high expectations from the second I discovered it. All the same, I don’t think I quite anticipated all the twists and turns that did take place, nor the reality of just how easy it was to sympathise with these characters, and how much I connected to the story. I can hardly draw a comparison between Daisy & Co and myself, our lives starkly different, our ambitions barely alike, and yet I found myself so attached to these people, their stories, that I felt the second hand embarrassment of many of these interactions, I found myself anxiously awaiting certain twists that I knew were sure to unfold, but was dreading intently. Everything felt so vivid that it was so easy to create a paint a picture in my head, one that often left me reeling with the harsh reality of it all.

There’s something truly commendable to the way that this story was crafted and the work that Reid put in to say that the final chapters of this book had me consistently flicking back and forth from the front to the back, pulling my hair out, and trying to make sense of the whole situation. With twists and turns making me question everything that I’d read all those pages before, I found myself in awe of the way that Reid had reeled me in, duped me countless times, and left me picking up the pieces along the way; and all with the tiniest, most subtle of details that I ended up kicking myself for having missed!

FEMINISM

Feminism has come along way over the years, even in comparison to the 70s, but it’s still ever changing. As I mentioned above, seeing the way that Reid addressed the treatment of women, and their own views of themselves and one another, was really refreshing in many different ways. None of the female characters within this book were the same, all fierce and strong in their own right, but all with different quirks and standout traits to set them apart, and all with their own individuality. The way that Daisy might approach a situation wouldn’t necessarily be how Simone might, and the attitude that Karen so often encompassed was often vastly different from Camila’s.

Truthfully, there were times at the start of the book where I worried about the women and how they would be written. Countless instances where I fretted and found myself so conflicted, concerned that they were just going to be mirror images of one another, Mary Sues and Manic Pixie Dream Girls, or props for the male characters. This was absolutely not the case, and that becomes all too clear as the story progresses. I won’t say that there aren’t instances in which the female characters aren’t mistreated, because that would be a lie; we see various cases of the way that women, and young girls, are manipulated, taken advantage of, and just altogether disregarded, both an example of the rampant misogyny present in the 70s and today. That said, all of the women in this book are shown to be endlessly resilient, and they all do a great job of making sure that their worth is known.

Though I absolutely loved Daisy, and would definitely go as far to say that she fast became one of my favourite characters, I think that Karen in particular had some really great, standout lines and interactions through the course of the book that really stood out for me. Some of these instances consisted of her calling out the men in her life;

Men often think they deserve a sticker for treating women like people.”

This was a particularly great line, and one that I think surely resonates with a lot of women around the world, just as it did with me. Karen is very upfront in that she doesn’t take any bullshit through the course of the book, as is evident in how she responds to advances from men, and how she acknowledges their treatment of hers and others. She falls into a very similar trap that most, if not all, women do at some stage in their lives, where she is faced with the dilemma of wanting to represent herself in the right way, in a way that accurately portrays who she is, but is afraid of being sexualised or being reduced to nothing but her gender, with her talent and personality being pushed aside. The little snippets of this that we see are also another instance in which we get to learn about Karen, learn about the way that she views herself, but also the way that it amplifies her adoration and the respect she holds for other women, particularly Daisy;

When I first started, I wanted to play the electric guitar. And my dad got me piano lessons instead.
He didn’t mean anything by it – he just thought the keys are what girls play.
But it was stuff like that, every time I tried anything.
When I auditioned for the Winters, I had this really great mini-dress I’d just bought, it was pale blue with a big belt across it. It felt like a lucky dress. Well, the day I tried out, I didn’t wear it. Because I knew they’d see a girl. And I wanted them to see a keyboardist. So I wore jeans and a University of Chicago T-shirt I stole from my brother.
Daisy wasn’t like that. It would never have occurred to Daisy to do that.”

Moments like these are somewhat bittersweet, I find, as it allows us a glimpse into the life of women, and the way that we feel as though we have to make ourselves smaller for the benefit of men. This is something that resonated with me quite strongly, on quite a personal level. I’m a pretty insecure person, especially as far as my own appearance goes, and I absolutely believe that a large portion of that is a very direct result of the way that I’ve been treated by men, and the expectations that those men placed upon me. I think this is something that many, if not all, young girls face, and it’s very easy to fall into a pattern of allowing these kinds of men the power to make us small, and to dictate the person that we have to be, and what we should do with our bodies, and our own agency. One of my absolute favourite aspects of Karen’s character was her progression over the course of the book, spanning years, as we get to see her finally take action and put herself first, and do what is best for her, without the pressures of worrying herself about what men expect of her.

I could probably talk for days, weeks, on end about the women in this book, and the various ways in which they shine, but I won’t. But, naturally, before I wrap this up I’m going to talk a little more about the lady herself; Daisy Jones.

On one of the very first pages of this book, right off the bat, we are given this wonderful, truly empowering quote from Daisy;

I had absolutely no interest in being someone else’s muse.
I am not a muse. I am the somebody.
End of fucking story.”

This is a woman who knows her worth, and who absolutely isn’t ashamed of who she is, or what she stands for. She is unapologetically herself, and it’s captivating. Daisy Jones is a takes no prisoners kind of gal, and she’s not afraid to speak her own truth and stand tall, proud, and be herself. Perhaps, even, to a fault; Daisy is by no means perfect (who of us is?), and she has her own vices, her addictions, and her downfalls. She can be crass and tactless, never quite seeming to know where to draw the line; she’s unrelenting, her own stubborn nature often the only obstacle standing in her way. She’s so painfully aware of her own excellence, to a point that some might even consider it arrogance, and yet there’s nothing obnoxious or haughty about her attitude – she merely knows her own worth, is aware of the talents and skills that she possesses, and she goes after what she wants and won’t back down for anybody. There are countless instances in which she and Billy clash, and she and various other people from her past, all of these conflicts being a direct result of her own self awareness. Men can be as arrogant and entitled as they like, and we whittle it down to them just being confident, we think it’s sexy and endearing, a little bit cheeky. But, when a woman carries that same air of certainty, when a woman knows that she has something to offer, she’s vain, egotistical, and needs knocking down a few pegs. When Daisy meets Billy, and the rest of The Six, she isn’t focused on outshining them, nor is her intent to steal the spotlight. The entire time that she’s observing them, working with them, and working on her craft, she isn’t remotely interested in an increase in status or her reputation, she merely wants to be recognised and appreciated for her art, and to help them grow and improve in the process.

I didn’t care if I was famous or not. I didn’t care if I got to sing on your record or not. All I wanted to do was make something interesting and original and cool.”

Daisy doesn’t care about fame or fortune, nor does she care if her name’s up in bright lights or just scratched onto the back of a record. She isn’t doing what she does for the sake of hearing people scream her name, or to see herself splashed over the front of magazines, but because she loves it, and because she wants to make herself useful, to create and to achieve and to make a difference. She wasn’t interested in changing herself, her image or her attitude for anybody else; none of this was about what people wanted her to be, or the expectations that they had for her, but about being true to herself, and maintaining the most raw and honest version of herself that she could.

I am not going to sit around sweating my ass off just so men can feel more comfortable. It’s not my responsibility to not turn them on. It’s their responsibility to not be an asshole.”

Much like Karen, of course, she wasn’t interested in the male gaze, or a man’s inability to control himself. A woman who had her own fair share of horror stories as far as romantic and sexual encounters went, many of which were from a disturbingly young age, Daisy had no concern for censoring herself, or covering up and keeping herself PG-13 just to appease to someone else.

And yet, in spite of all that, Daisy isn’t a wholly selfish person. She puts herself first, and she won’t stand back and allow herself to be degraded or objectified, but she also has her limits, and knows where to draw the line – which, frankly, comes as a shock to both the reader and her bandmates. When confronted with children, we get these great insights into Daisy tidying herself up and transforming into this entirely new; she knows the example that needs to be set, and she has no qualms about making herself presentable and adhering to these standards. She isn’t a bad person, and she has no intentions of leading innocent or naïve children astray and introducing them to the dangerous, destructive lifestyle that she was exposed to, but instead adapts herself to be something of a role model. She wants nothing more than to remain authentic and to never give into social norms or the standards that have been set out for her. Yet, with that being said, authenticity for Daisy isn’t just about the image that she has created for herself, and the addictions and the bad habits that she has fallen prey to, but it’s about ensuring that she makes an imprint on the world in a positive way.

The whole way home, Julia was saying, ‘Can Daisy Jones be my best friend?’”

When confronted with Billy and Camila’s daughter, Julia, Daisy immediately adapts to her surroundings, and the audience in front of her. She isn’t shedding a part of herself for the benefit of others and, indeed, Camila and Billy were as equally surprised to see the change in her, both presumably having believed that she wouldn’t have cared about the presence of a child; the implication is that everybody expected Daisy to continue on as she had before. Instead, Daisy tidies herself up, hides away her drugs, and still maintains her fierce, rock star image, but allows the reader to view her through the lens of a young girl, staring up at her idol, somebody that she could hope to be when she grows up.

The clear juxtaposition between the Daisy that we have known over the course of the books, and the Daisy that adapts and shifts according to her environment, and the company that she’s in, is so astounding and perfectly crafted by Reid. It’s an example of how each person can have many faces, and how we all the capacity to adjust and grow without ever sacrificing the parts of ourselves that truly define us.

I wholeheartedly enjoyed the way that Taylor Jenkins Reid wrote all of the women in this story, and I truly believe she done a wonderful job in showing the reader that a woman can be anything. There is no clear cut definition of what makes a woman, nor is there any one standard that we should all adhere to. So long as we identify and define ourselves as being women, then we are, no matter our similarities and our differences.

I think this is a book that is absolutely going to sit wrong with certain people, it isn’t always going to rub everyone the right way. I absolutely, wholeheartedly get that. There were many instances through the book where I was cringing, the second hand embarrassment and discomfort on behalf of the characters almost too raw, too real, and various times where I found myself increasingly mortified at hearing some of the truths uncovered over the years, some of the horrors and experiences that, Daisy in particular, these characters had undergone. Especially, I believe, that a lot of people won’t necessarily be able to connect with the story, or these characters, given the time frame and the life that they lived. Certainly, I know that I couldn’t connect with their lifestyles and the sexual nature, or the substance abuse, that is so core to the story. That being said, this isn’t meant to be a pretty book. There’s nothing flowery about it, and it is supposed to mimic that same, toxic imagery of sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll that we’ve all heard of. Those seventies, rock vibes were strong, both in the substance abuse and precarious attitudes towards sex (and, often, consent), as well as the treatment of women and the obvious gender barrier. Absolutely nothing is watered down or brushed aside that needs to be addressed, you’re often left conflicted, at a complete standstill, as you try to process the things that they’re recapping, but at the same time, these are their lives, their pasts, and we aren’t hearing these tales through the eyes of an author wanting to tell a story right, and through the words of somebody approaching such topics with care. Instead, we’re hearing them through the mouths of those who lived through it, and hearing their own personal twist on the experience. I think this is just a testament to Reid’s talent, in how each voice stands out, how every person’s attitude differs, the tone constantly set in such a manner that allows you to forget that these aren’t real people. Even the vast expanse of time between these events unfolding, and their stories being told, show the difference in era and time period, how attitudes and norms evolve, and whether or not a person adapts and changes with those times, too. In a sense, I almost believe that this book shouldn’t be read as a work of fiction, so to speak, as I think Reid’s primary intention was to make these characters and their pasts as believable as possible. Countless times I’ve seen and heard people pose the question, “Are The Six a real band?” or, “Where can I listen to their music?” with a wide array of people genuinely hearing of the premise of this book, and going into it, under the legitimate belief that this is a real band who had slowly but surely fallen off the radar. It’s far easier to read, and enjoy, this book when going into it with a sense of; none of this is going to be pretty, there are going to be conflicting reports and opinions, and this is the story of a band who are not together anymore and who did have something of a plummet from grace.

All in all, this story and these characters may not have resonated with me on a personal level – though, of course, there’s always going to be little tidbits and moments of relatability – but I wasn’t looking for a story that stared into my soul. Indeed, I was looking for characters who’d allow me to stare into theirs, and Taylor Jenkins Reid delivered. There were conflicts and controversies, heartbreak and heartfelt scenes, and an immense amount of emotion – both positive and negative – filtering through every single page of this book. It took me on a journey that I only wish I could take for the first time all over again.

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