I feel duty-bound to start this review with a warning: you should only pick up this book if you’re prepared for it to take over your life completely until you’ve finished it. Seriously, to call it addictive is an understatement – Daisy Jones and her dysfunctional cohorts will worm their way into your heart and stay lodged there with a longevity few fictional characters achieve.
The story feels familiar, and indeed you don’t have to be a music aficionado to know it’s one that’s been played out many times in the real world: a band experience a meteoric rise to fame, only for tensions within the group to cause it to implode in spectacular fashion, putting an end to both friendships and careers in the process. The novel begins when the band in question are known simply as The Six, but it’s the arrival of the striking, uber-confident Daisy Jones as frontwoman that kicks off the events that will ultimately be everyone’s undoing. I’m aware as I write this that the bare bones of the story arc sound a bit ho-hum and very predictable, but what sounds like a tale we’ve all heard before, in the hands of Taylor Jenkins Reid morphs into something magic.
Let’s start with the setting: 70s America, a nostalgically rendered pre-iTunes world where the expert craftsmanship of the album and the electricity of live performance are the keys to musical success. I’m far too young sadly to remember the era, yet somehow the way it was written sparked off a yearning in me for this vastly different time – aided in part perhaps by the fact the story is told through the characters’ own reminiscences. There’s no rose-tinting – the hedonistic combination of the proverbial sex, drugs and rock’n’roll represents freedom, fun and wild indulgence but it comes hand in hand with its flipside of addition, infidelity and emotional hangovers that out-punch the physical ones. Yet the pleasure and the pain are both equally intoxicating and compelling; you can’t help but acknowledge one couldn’t exist without the other.
The absolute stroke of genius, however, in Daisy Jones and The Six is the format in which it’s written. The entire book takes the form of an interview transcript, with the character’s name followed by their dialogue. When it comes to creating a sense of authenticity you can’t get much better than this; the result is a cast of characters who seem so real you can’t believe this is a fiction; it will have you running to Google just to double check the band didn’t actually exist! At first it feels almost like reading a lengthy magazine article; the format lends the writing an immediacy and a pace that drives the story along at a rattling speed. What took me by surprise though was the emotional gut-punch Daisy Jones and The Six managed to pull off as the story drew nearer its end. The genuine pain I felt for some of the characters was unexpected given there remains no descriptive language and no intervention by a narrator to guide our sentiments in the desired direction. When a writer is relying purely on dialogue to do the heavy lifting for them it has to be spot on, and this never hit a false note. The root of all the sadness can perhaps be boiled down to the fact that no-one can ever really understand what someone else is thinking or feeling, even those people closest to them. The irony here is that we get to see it all as each character speaks in turn: we hear polar opposite interpretations of events spelt out in the words of the participants themselves, each assuming their version of events is true – they never get to hear as we do the contradicting viewpoint that would have altered their perspective and just maybe allowed them to prevent the heartbreaks and the rifts that tragically go on to last a lifetime.
Of the many books I’ve read over the last few months, this one stands out a mile. Everyone who’s read Daisy Jones and The Six (or enjoyed the audiobook, which I gather is extremely well done) has showered it with effusive praise, and I’m happy to join the fan club. If you’ve read it too I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for reading.