book review: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid
★★★★☆
Ballantine Books, March 5, 2019

 

For better or worse Daisy Jones & The Six is a big departure from Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2017 bestseller The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and though I’m sure this one will do equally well commercially, I’m not convinced that it will win the hearts of quite as many readers. The format takes some getting used to – it’s a series of interviews woven together from members of a Fleetwood Mac-inspired fictional band, and as such the entire novel is essentially told in dialogue. I’m not sure every reader will be able to get over that hurdle and settle into the novel’s rhythm, but I ended up really enjoying this.

I do have a few qualms, so let’s get those out of the way. While I thought the interview format was ultimately the right choice for this story, it led to a few awkward passages, as the only descriptions of setting we got were from the characters themselves, and there were some moments that felt wildly inauthentic to me – someone remembering exactly what a character was wearing 30 years ago, or describing a perfectly ordinary occurrence with a kind of poetic language that didn’t ring true for the circumstances in which the interview was being conducted. I know that Taylor Jenkins Reid probably had to take some poetic license here lest her dialogue come across as flat and stilted, but it didn’t always work for me.

I also wasn’t terribly impressed with the construction of the supporting characters; all of the male characters were essentially interchangeable, and I found myself frustrated with Camila’s portrayal as this utter paragon of goodness (I’m glad Taylor Jenkins Reid didn’t want to pigeonhole her into the ‘jealous wife’ role, but I think she overcompensated too much in the other direction – she was just unrealistically stolid).

Sorry, that was a lot of negativity for a book I ultimately enjoyed. Let’s get to the good stuff. This is a glorious portrayal of the 70s rock scene in LA; not to fall back on a cliche and say that this book is all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but it kind of is, in a way that felt both nuanced and convincing. No one does atmosphere quite like Taylor Jenkins Reid – in both of her novels that I’ve read I’ve just been so immersed into a period of twentieth century history that I didn’t think I cared all that much about, only to be riveted by her ability to evoke time and place, and use the setting to explore such brilliant character dynamics.

Which brings us to the other wonderful thing about this book. The chemistry between the band’s two leads, Daisy and Billy, leaps off the page – if you aren’t forcibly drawn into their thorny dynamic I don’t even know what to tell you. And one last note: Karen! I cannot even explain how delighted I was to see a female character who knows she does not want children and knows her own mind enough that she’s never questioned it. I feel like narratives about women not wanting children are often fraught with self-doubt, and it’s not that I think these narratives are unrealistic, but they don’t speak for every woman who decides to remain childless, and I just have never been happier with a portrayal of this than in this book.

So all in all, a mixed bag, but the good really did outweigh the bad for me, and I ultimately thought this was fun and quietly tragic all at once.

Thank you to Netgalley and Ballantine for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

Pick up a copy of Daisy Jones & The Six here on Book Depository.

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27 thoughts on “book review: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

  1. Great review! I have this one on my Netgalley shelf, and I am excited to read it, because I really like band stories. I also haven’t read The Evelyn Hugo yet, so I am going in with zero expectations. Hopefully I enjoy it like you did!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh I’m SO glad you agree about Camila – I’ve seen some reviews praising her for not being a doormat, which in theory I’m into but she just felt so… like a fictional character. Can’t wait for your review!

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  2. I was thinking the same thing that damn these people have some good memories. I should have wrote about that in my review as well. I thought that was a bit unbelievable. I barely remember what I wore yesterday. Overall still a really enjoyable read. I want to pick it up again when it comes out and listen to the audio. I feel this will be a great audiobook if done right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • YES! There was this one line in particular where one of the background guys in the band was like ‘Daisy showed up wearing short shorts and cropped shirt’ or whatever and I was like, REALLY? You REALLY remember what this platonic friend of yours was wearing to rehearsal 30 years ago?! There were a couple of lines like that that really took me out of the story.

      But yes, mostly it was fab. I was also thinking about the audio as I was reading, wondering how they’d do it! I think it could be really excellent. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on that!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah like there is no they would have remembered in such detail. I know it was for the book but with trying to make it real, it’s very unbelievable.

        I heard that the audiobook is full cast so I feel that will really add to the experience. I was wondering if they’ll sing the lyrics of the songs. I’m very interested in it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh I was hoping they’d do a full cast audio! I’m also curious about how the songs are going to work… do let me know how it is! If you say it’s brilliant I may have to listen.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. HOLY SHIT KAREN. What a legend. Also, I want to defend Camila’s characterization a little: I find it rare in fiction that a “good” woman is also written as a fierce or strong woman, and the thing about Camila is that she is absolutely the moral centre of that book. I think she’s meant to be slightly unreal – Billy certainly can’t believe that she sticks with him – but her final interaction with Daisy had just enough underhandedness to it that I believed in it. (Billy also describes her as being somewhat pushy, I think that’s the exact word.) So I’m not sure she’s this flawless paragon of wifeliness and motherhood, so much as an attempt to write a genuinely good character who also has a major, active effect on the plot.

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    • KAREN! I felt SEEN BY THIS CHARACTER.

      So I definitely respect your interpretation re: Camila. I think my issue with her character is coming from an ever so slightly different angle – I love that Reid (Jenkins Reid?? what do I do with the Jenkins, I never know) gave her a backbone and personality because she would have been such an easy character to vilify or to write off as totally one-note, so I agree with you there. BUT that said what pushed it too far for me was that she was this totally seamless judge of character who knew everyone better than they knew themselves, who knew how to perfectly navigate every tricky situation to a fault. It’s funny you mention that interaction with Daisy because that was one of those moments I didn’t love; underhandedness aside (and I agree that was part of it!) the way Daisy said ‘Camila made me do this and it was the best decision I ever made’ was like corroborating the whole ‘Camila can do no wrong’ aspect that I felt underscored the entire book – I just felt like the other main characters were all given such room to fail and I found that fascinating and maybe in direct opposition to that Camila felt less real…? And even if Billy’s idealization of her played into it, I just felt like the ending really did The Most to shove down our throats how perfect she was, just in case we’d missed it before.

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      • Ok, fair play – her “I know everyone better than they know themselves” shtick is a bit of a stretch. There is one moment where her perfect grasp of everything is challenged; it’s very brief, but Karen asks her how she’s doing and she starts talking really fast about taking care of the kids and how hard it it is – that felt like a moment of rupture, where we get to see Camila off guard, and then she immediately pulls herself together. I think part of her characterization is that she deeply dislikes not being in charge, which in a way makes her a perfect match for Billy – despite his obsession about being in control of the band, in his personal life he’s just a kid. So there is some not-entirely-okay stuff going on there, too, but that’s actually what makes their marriage and Camila
        feel realistic enough for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s totally fair – my instinct here is to say that I wish the cracks in Camila’s perfect facade could have been explored in more detail, but of course she’s not the main character and maybe it’s enough that Reid hinted that they were there. I’m still not totally satisfied with the end result but I do get where you’re coming from – definitely something to consider if I ever revisit this!

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  4. I reaaaally don’t think this one is gonna be for me, but I’m glad you enjoyed it! I just wasn’t taken in by the blurb at all and since it’s so different from Evelyn Hugo anyway, I feel like it’s probably not worth reading. Oh well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • VERY fair. I really didn’t think I’d like it either, it’s one of those books I would never have picked up if it weren’t for the author and having a free ARC. So, it ended up being worth it for me but sometimes you’ve gotta just trust your instinct!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review, and it’s good to know about the interview format for the book. I admittedly saw someone talk about Fleetwood Mac and this book on Twitter the other day and I was like OMG ME YES, but I didn’t really know anything about this (and I haven’t read Seven Husbands, either). This may be a book that would do well as audio for me, so I will check out the sample when it comes out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I keep hearing amazing things about the audiobook! I hope you enjoy it, I’m sure you will if you’re a big Fleetwood Mac fan. Maybe not having read Seven Husbands is a bonus – I think Daisy Jones is a very, very good book, but it did suffer a bit for me by comparison! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

      Liked by 1 person

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