Reviewed by Jean A.

daisyjones_coverDAISY JONES & THE SIX
By Taylor Jenkins Reid
368 pages. Ballantine Books.

From the bestselling author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo comes Daisy Jones & The Six, a fictionalized memoir about a rock n’ roll band in the ‘70s who eventually become the most famous band in the world.

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

Daisy Jones is free-spirited, glamorous, and, as the other characters never fail to mention, stunningly beautiful. She’s a gifted songwriter and a talented singer. She’s also reckless and potentially self-destructive, with a dangerous addiction to drugs and alcohol.

The Six started out with brothers Billy and Graham Dunne. Depending on who you asked, Billy was a musical genius, a rock star, or a control freak. Billy was the lead vocalist and songwriter, and Graham was the lead guitarist. They eventually brought on some of their friends—drummer Warren Rhodes, bassist Pete Loving, rhythm guitarist Eddie Loving, and keyboardist Karen Sirko.

The Six score a record deal, move out to Los Angeles, and release their debut album. Everyone starts living larger—wild parties, free-flowing alcohol, and a lot of drugs. While working on their second album, Billy is introduced to Daisy, and there’s an instant, undeniable chemistry. They can’t stand each other—Daisy reminds Billy too much of a fast-paced lifestyle he no longer wants, and Daisy refuses to let Billy boss her around. And yet, their collaboration leads to the band’s breakout single and kickstarts their rise to the top. That’s when things to start to get really complicated.

“Drinking, drugging, sleeping around, it’s all the same thing. You have these lines you won’t cross. But then you cross them. And suddenly you possess the very dangerous information that you can break the rule and the world won’t instantly come to an end.”

Rock ‘n’ roll narratives often sound familiar. They start out as small-time musicians with big dreams, dealing with dismissive audiences and smarmy managers. Then they hit it big—suddenly, they’re rock stars, and there’s drugs, and alcohol, and groupies everywhere. It’s easy to want to be a rock star, to envy their big, glamorous lives. What you don’t often see is how deeply unglamorous it actually is behind the scenes. When everything is handed to you, it’s easy to act on your worst impulses. When the rules don’t apply to you anymore, it’s hard to know when to stop.

The music is a big part of Daisy Jones & The Six, but this novel’s beating heart is how people in a complicated situation have to make difficult choices between what they want and what they need. There’s forbidden romance, unrequited love, and secret trysts, all set against the backdrop of the rock ‘n’ roll scene of the ‘70s. It’s easy to see that The Six is a thinly-veiled reference to legendary rock band Fleetwood Mac, with all their infamous hookups, breakups, and lineup changes. Daisy Jones could only be a stand-in for the iconic Stevie Nicks. (Fleetwood Mac’s seminal album Rumours is definitely required listening for this novel!)

What I loved about this book was how it showed just how anger and pain and longing can find catharsis in art. There are plenty of (fake) songs in Daisy Jones & The Six. A song about how you love someone you can’t have, and still want them anyway. A song about how you love someone so much that you would do everything to be the person they deserved to be with. An angry, scorned-woman anthem. At one point, Karen says she doesn’t understand how anyone can put so much of themselves in music that they will perform every night on tour. But that’s the beauty of it. The music is the release.

Of course the book is centered on Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne, but the supporting characters are just as (if not more) compelling. I loved the strong female friendships all around—the devotion between Daisy and Simone, the mutual support between Camila and Karen, and even the tension between Daisy and Camila (which comes to a head in a really great scene) were definite highlights of the book.

The novel is written as a series of transcribed interviews that serve as a compiled oral history of the band. It reads like a written version of VH1’s Behind The Music, or like talking head interviews in a music documentary. It was initially off-putting, as the format keeps you at a distance, but it soon made sense. It showed off the dynamics of the band and allowed the other members to share their own perspectives on a story that would otherwise have been solely focused on its stars.

As a bonus, the lyrics to all the songs in Aurora are included at the end of the book, which made me wish that this was an actual album I could listen to! There’s news that Reese Witherspoon’s production company will be adapting this for television, so there may be hope yet.

Daisy Jones & The Six is available at Fully Booked branches. Email us to reserve a copy.

Jean will try anything once. She has, at different points in her life, worked in government, interviewed international celebrities, and been the social media manager for several brands. On any given day, she would rather be reading, preferably surrounded by puppies. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @jeanarboleda.

[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]

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