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.

book review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid
★★★★★
Atria Books, 2017

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is the most wonderfully immersive book I could have chosen to read over a weekend when I desperately needed an escape from reality. I hadn’t really heard much about the plot of this book going into it, and honestly, that’s how I’d recommend approaching it if at all possible, because it just sweeps you up into such a compelling and unexpected tale from the very first page.

The characters in this book are all brilliant and well-crafted, none more so than Evelyn, our ruthless and at times unlikable protagonist. If you’re familiar with my tastes, you’ll know that I absolutely adore antiheroines when well written, and Evelyn is so vibrant and multifaceted she practically jumps off the page. Though it’s only been a few days since I’ve finished this, I can already tell that Evelyn is going to be utterly unforgettable. But Evelyn didn’t entirely steal the show away from this book’s host of intriguing supporting characters – each one of them was so three-dimensional it was easy to forget this story is entirely fictional.

There were several elements that ended up being hugely pleasant surprises – the inclusion of several LGBT+ characters being the main one (I won’t say too much more here so I don’t spoil anything, but, suffice to say this book is not half as heterosexual as its title would imply). What also surprised me was how invested I became in this story. I flew through this 400-page long book in only 2 days – I couldn’t put it down and I was rewarded with a conclusion so beautiful and bittersweet it brought me to tears.

Everyone should read this book. I realize I’ve said absolutely nothing about the actual plot here, but this is a ‘take my word for it’ type situation if I ever saw one.