Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Hands down this is one of my favourite books of the year, and yes I know it’s only April but this totally blew me away.
For a while, Daisy Jones & The Six were everywhere. Their albums were on every turntable, they sold out arenas from coast to coast, their sound defined an era. And then, on 12 July 1979, they split. Nobody ever knew why. Until now. They were lovers and friends and brothers and rivals. They couldn’t believe their luck, until it ran out. This is their story of the early days and the wild nights, but everyone remembers the truth differently. The only thing they all know for sure is that from the moment Daisy Jones walked barefoot onstage at the Whisky, their lives were irrevocably changed. Making music is never just about the music. And sometimes it can be hard to tell where the sound stops and the feelings begin.
Why don’t I listen to people when they tell me I need to read something? I kept seeing review after review telling me how good this was but despite having an ARC sitting on my kindle waiting to be read I kept putting it off (given I did exactly the same thing with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo I really should have known Reid wouldn’t let me down). The thing is, this is just not the kind of book I typically go for. If someone told me I’d be giving a book set in the 70’s music scene 5 stars I wouldn’t have believed them but this just worked for me and I loved it.
There may not be much in the way of a story, they form a band, write some songs, have some arguments and take a lot of drugs, and it often doesn’t really feel like it’s going anywhere but I honestly couldn’t have cared less. There’s just something so compelling about these characters that I could quite happily read about them sitting around having a chat. They are so complex and well rounded that it’s difficult not to feel drawn to them and I came away from this story wishing they were real.
The format of this novel is a little unusual, something that I think readers will either love or find incredibly irritating. It’s written as a series of interviews with the members of the band, their friends and family and others who were around at the time but jumps around from character to character to get each of their perspectives on events in a chronological order. It reads very much like one of those documentaries you see about big famous bands where facts and key events are interspersed with the recollections of those involved (I love those programmes).
It is a little choppy at times, is a lot more tell than show, and took me a few pages to get used to it (I can understand why a lot of people say the audio’s worth getting) but it suited me. I love books that are predominantly dialogue, they just work for me, so while I felt a little distanced from both the characters and the moments, I still had a very real sense of who they were. It all felt incredibly real and completely believable, so much so that yes I did Google to check it was fictional. It was also wonderful (and sometimes funny) to get contrasting views of the same events.
I’m not sure I would really say I could relate to the characters or that I even really liked them or connected to them but they did fascinate me. You could argue some are a little stereotyped, there’s the messed up rich girl (Daisy), the egotistical and controlling lead singer (Billy), the sleazeball (I’m naming no names here) and the hot headed band member who doesn’t feel he’s being allowed to shine, but I found it incredibly easy to imagine each and every one.
Some voices and stories I did prefer to others, Karen for example as keyboard player is very much in the background as far as the band goes but had for me one of the most powerful stories and was incredibly likeable. I also liked Warren the drummer, who’s clearly incredibly talented but is so relaxed and unbothered by all of the drama, and Graham, Billy’s brother who seems happy to let his brother bask in the limelight.
It’s actually Billy and Daisy who are probably the least likeable of all. Both are battling addiction problems, are selfish, egotistical and think the world revolves around them but I will admit there’s something very charismatic about both of them and put them together and it’s down right electric. There’s so much tension and chemistry between them it’s impossible not to be captivated by them and I loved the way the dynamic between them shifted and changed.
The whole story is however enthralling and I loved every single second of reading it. Reid’s writing is magical and for me the only bad thing was the ending (and only because it was over).
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This in no way influenced my review and if you need any more convincing I bought a copy too.