I said I wouldn’t do it… but I did. I swore up and down I wouldn’t review Daisy Jones And The Six because it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype, could it? But, eventually, the constant exposure and the endless stream of recommendations wore me down. I ran an Instagram poll (because I wanted to be sure that Keeper Upperers weren’t sick of hearing about Taylor Jenkins Reid’s bestseller elsewhere), and a full 100% of respondents said I should review it. So, here we are.
Daisy Jones And The Six tells the story of a (fictional) 1970s pop-rock band, from their formation to international fame and chart-topping hits. It’s styled as an oral history, a Behind The Music-esque series of interviews with the band members, aimed at uncovering – for the first time – why the band split at the height of their success. As the tagline on the cover promises, everyone was there, but everyone remembers it differently.
A few facts are not in contention, however. The titular Daisy Jones was a late addition to the band. She was a ’70s It Girl, raised by hippie parents who paid her little attention, so she sought it on Sunset Strip. She was – naturally – a talented singer and songwriter, but she had little patience for the training it takes to hone such skills. Instead, she spent most of her time partying and popping pills, until The Six needed a female vocalist on a track from their forthcoming album. That’s when she met Billy Dunne.
Ah, Billy Dunne: the rock’n’roll bad-boy in top-to-toe denim, and his own substance problems to boot. He and Daisy had a chemistry that no one could deny… except, it would seem, his loving and faithful wife Camila. Billy got clean shortly before Daisy joined the band permanently, but the drugs and the girl remained a constant temptation, threatening the solid foundations of his marriage and his fatherhood. He sought control in the only place he could find it: the creative direction of the band. Needless to say, that didn’t go down so well with those who make up the rest of The Six.
If you’re getting a strong whiff of Fleetwood Mac, you’re not alone. To her credit, Reid doesn’t deny it. In almost every interview she did for publicity after the release of Daisy Jones And The Six, she formally acknowledged that the band was her inspiration for the novel. She insists, however, that it’s a “vibe”, rather than a re-telling. She “just wanted to listen to Rumors, and needed a good excuse”. Hats off to her for being so frank about it; lesser authors would have hidden behind the “all characters and events are entirely fictional” disclaimer.
Daisy Jones And The Six is an easy read, without insulting your intelligence. Reid’s writing is really effective, in the sense that she builds the tension in such a way that you keep telling yourself “just one more chapter, to see how this plays out”. Occasionally, in the beginning, the language felt a bit stilted, as though this supposed “transcript” of an oral history had been corrected to read more like the Queen’s English. It got smoother over time, or maybe I just got more forgiving.
I think reading and appreciating this book (and reviewing it, ahem!) is best suited to readers who have an interest in the nuts-and-bolts of music production and the wider industry. Cards on the table, here: I’m the daughter of a musician (my father was a bass player for decades, including the one in which Daisy Jones And The Six is set). My bed-time stories as a kid were about dickhead managers and cops raiding hotel rooms and other events I’m sure Dad doesn’t want me putting in writing (ahem-ahem, a hint to those who know as to how I feel about the ending). At times, my insight was an impediment to my enjoyment. When the drummer, Warren, said he “wanted to be Ringo”, I literally snorted. No real drummer has ever wanted to be Ringo. The Beatles were gods, we’ve seen none like them before or since, but Ringo was barely a drummer’s arsehole. Aside from that, Warren was the most realistic, believable, and likeable of all the characters.
“WARREN: Let me sum up that early tour for you: I was getting laid, Graham was getting high, Eddie was getting drunk, Karen was getting fed up, Pete was getting on the phone to his girl back home, and Billy was all five, all at once.”Daisy Jones And The Six, Page 67
The differing accounts of “the facts” was a masterstroke by Reid. Get any group of friends to tell you a story, and you’ll get these kinds of discrepancies. That’s where the faux-documentary style was ideal; it allowed Reid to tell the story from multiple angles, and let us read between the lines. I changed my mind chapter-to-chapter as to whose version I believed. Eddie was too bitter to see things objectively, Daisy too high, Billy too invested in his ego, Graham too distracted by his fling with Karen on keyboards…
One concern I’ve seen parroted time and again in other reviews is that Daisy Jones And The Six “glamourises” drug taking. The thing is, drugs were kind of glamorous (and still are, to an extent). Is anyone really denying that? I thought Reid actually did a good job of portraying the downside, too. Her characters disappointed the people who loved them, experienced severe physical side effects and ramifications, made truly terrible decisions while high and had to deal with the fall-out… and, from a craft standpoint, it helped sell each and every one of the band members as an unreliable narrator. So, that’s how I feel about that.
Okay, confession time: I knew where Daisy Jones And The Six was headed all along. I knew because I never expected I’d read or review it, so I just blasted past the spoiler warnings on other blogs and podcasts. I won’t outright spoil it for the (surely very few) people out there who have yet to read it, but I feel compelled to give some veiled impressions of the ending for those who have…
I was kind of surprised that the “big shock twist” regarding the story’s narration and premise came only thirty pages from the end. It felt a bit haphazard. In fact, it kind of ruined Daisy Jones And The Six for me, completely disrupted the “flow” of what (until then) had been a really effective narrative framing device. In fact, it smacked of a cheap ploy to elicit tears from the reader, which – in turn – cheapened a book that (again, until then) had been well-crafted.
I’m also a bit shocked by all the other reviews that say something to the effect of “Oh, I wish these songs were real!”. I glanced over the lyric sheets included in the back of the book, and… well… I would’ve preferred they left them out. Daisy Jones And The Six isn’t about the music. It’s about The Drama(TM). It’s about the voyeuristic thrill of going backstage at a big rock concert. It’s about the soap opera we imagine playing out behind the scenes. Why can’t we just leave it at that?
But, hey: I’m not here to shit on something just because it’s popular. Daisy Jones And The Six is a good yarn. I enjoyed reading it. I might send a copy to my father, just for the laughs we’d have dissecting it together. But it didn’t rock my world the way it seems to have rocked everyone else’s. As I always say, every book will find its reader, and even if that reader isn’t me, Daisy Jones And The Six has found plenty of others. I certainly won’t shy away from picking up another of Reid’s books, if the standard of this one is anything to go by.
My favourite Amazon reviews of Daisy Jones And The Six:
- “The interview concept didn’t work for me. I could not imagine the scenes in my head but a conference room with 20 confusing old hippies around it.” – Maria Ferrer
- “I couldn’t put it down. I loved everything about this book. The way it was written, the way the characters interacted with each other, and Daisy Jones. Daisy is everything I wanted to be; Janice Joplin and Stevie Nicks all rolled into one.” – Kristonian
- “This was one of the worst books I’ve ever read! If it wasn’t on audible I never would have finished it. Zero excitement. A loyal husband is great in real life but not a very interesting read when it’s supposed to be a 70s rockband. Cheesy ending.” – Jmag
- “Took me a while to work our was fictional. After I found that out I didn’t keep going.” – nanny bump