17 April 2020

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid


Something that is newly important to me is keeping up with current books. I've been spending the last year alternating between fiction and nonfiction and felt this would be a good pick to finish off 2019 (the year it was published). I should also thank Ben's mom Laurie for giving me this book while I was in Ontario for work! I hadn't heard of it before and once I saw Reese Witherspoon's company optioned it for a miniseries I knew I needed to read it ahead of time.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a very quick read. It's just over 350 pages but it's the way it's stylized that makes you plow through the pages. All of the dialogue is via interview, so the plot all comes from the accounts of band members, producers, rock critics, etc. This structure works really well because it shows how narrators are often unreliable and you get to see an argument from everyone's perspective.

Reid's book is about a 1970s rock band (in the vein of Fleetwood Mac) and their rise to fame. The band consists of seven different characters but the main area of focus is on the two lead singer songwriters Billy Dunne and Daisy Jones.

Billy Dunne started The Six and is portrayed as a musical genius. As he succeeds more and more in the music business you see him struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction. You also see how complicated his relationship is with Camilla - his longtime girlfriend and the eventual mother of his children. Daisy Jones is the stereotypical hippy artist with bad parents and a penchant for snorting whatever's available.

Billy: It scared me that the only thing between this moment of calm and the biggest tragedy of my life was me choosing not to do it. That really tripped me out, that everyone's life was that precarious. That there wasn't some all-knowing mechanism in place that stopped things that shouldn't happen from happening. That's something that had always scared me. And that's how it felt being around Daisy Jones."

The most compelling part of this book is how Billy and Daisy negotiate working together in such an intimate way. Reid does a great job of showing how emotionally charged the energy is between them. When they are arguing you can feel their rage and when they are singing a song on stage you can feel the connection. I want to say words like "electric" and I know that's cliche, but it's exactly how Reid's writing makes you feel.

One of the elements I found most interesting between the two characters was how Billy's sobriety is impacted by his proximity to Daisy. There's this great scene where Daisy is high out of her mind at a pool party and as she walks across the deck she steps on all this broken glass from a beer bottle. Billy observes that she didn't even notice her feet were cut and bleeding because she was so high:

Billy: I couldn't stay. I couldn't stay because when I looked at Daisy, wet and bleeding and out of it and half-near falling down, I did not think, Thank God I stopped using. I thought, She knows how to have fun."

A look at how the book was stylized 
Another relationship I really enjoyed was how Reid contrasts Billy's relationship with Daisy to his marriage. Camilla is the only "morally upright" character in the book and she was definitely my favourite. She essentially tells Billy to clean up his act before the birth of their first daughter or to never speak to them again. She's so mature and never falls prey to the "nagging, jealous wife" stereotypes that are often written into stories about musicians.

The relationship between Billy, Daisy, and Camilla reminded me of the real-life relationship between Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie. The two were a longtime couple but never made it out of the height of Blondie's success. Stein (the guitarist) is now married to Barbara Sicuranza (an actress). I remember watching a BBC documentary about the band and Sicuranza essentially says she knows her relationship will never match the one Debbie and Chris had, but that doesn't make it less than.

Again, Reid does a great job of showcasing the creative relationship between Billy and Daisy while still making Camilla an incredibly dignified character. I never once hoped Billy and Daisy would get together, you know the entire time that Camilla is the only one who can ground him and keep him afloat in his sobriety. The relationship was really well written.


I should stress here that I hate people in bands for personal reasons lol. And I only include this because it's a testament to how well written the characters are that I was able to see past my personal bias. I'll also mention in the spirit of review that while I did enjoy reading Daisy Jones and the Six, I don't think I'll seek out any other work by Reid.

I am really looking forward to the miniseries of Daisy Jones and the Six but am a little worried about the 12-episode runtime. I do feel like this story could be told in less than six episodes. I am excited to see Riley Keough play the titular character though. Keough fits the description of Daisy Jones with long curly hair and big expressive eyes. I loved Keough in the Starz series The Girlfriend Experience and think she'll be able to bring a lot to the character. She is the granddaughter of Elvis and Priscilla Presley after all.

1 comment:

  1. Geez, this review is so well-written and spot on! Nice. I never hoped Billy and Daisy would’ve together either... When is the mini-series coming out?! I agree that 12 episodes may be stretching things, but I guess we’ll see.
    Laurie

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