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Daisy Jones & The Six

A Novel

by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid X
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2019, 368 pages

    Paperback:
    Feb 2020, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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Taylor Jenkins Reid presents a blast from the past in this 1970s faux rock biography.

In this evocative novel written in the format of an interview with members of a fictional music group, author Taylor Jenkins Reid paints a vivid portrait of the rock 'n' roll scene in Los Angeles in the 1970s. Heartbreaking and hysterical in turn, these interviews trace the rise and fall of Daisy Jones & The Six, a Fleetwood Mac-esque band that rose to fame with rocket speed, and just as suddenly flamed out amid drug abuse and romantic drama.

Billy Dunne and his brother Graham form The Six in 1967 with their friends and fellow musicians Warren Rhodes on drums, Pete Loving on guitar, and Pete's brother Eddie on bass. A short time later the band recruits Karen Sirko to play keyboard. Meanwhile, Daisy Jones, neglected child of a famous artist and a famous model, begins sneaking out of the house to visit rock clubs on the Sunset Strip at age 14. A talented singer, Daisy gets a record deal in 1972, at the same time The Six move to L.A. from Pennsylvania and score a deal of their own. Working for the same label, The Six recruit Daisy to sing on their second album. The response is so positive, they ask her to officially join the band. From there, the band gets steadily more popular, culminating in a stadium tour, but their interpersonal challenges become overwhelming. Daisy and Billy fall in love, but Billy is married with children and committed to his family. Graham and Karen begin a romantic relationship, but their priorities are entirely mismatched. Daisy abuses narcotics while Billy clings desperately to sobriety. Each character's perspective is provided with nuanced detail.

The book is alive with historical detail, creating a vibrant, eclectic atmosphere of 1970s rock 'n' roll, with references to Carole King and Keith Moon, the appropriate attire for the time (denim shirts with tight jeans for the guys, tank tops and cut-off shorts for the girls), and a performance on Saturday Night Live (which premiered in 1975). Reid also nods to some of the era's more somber or problematic notes. The Six's original guitarist, Chuck Williams, was drafted and died in Vietnam. The carefree, drug-infused L.A. lifestyle is decidedly more fun for the men; Daisy loses her virginity at 14 to an adult drummer she meets on the Strip, has her lyrics stolen by one boyfriend, and another gets her hooked on Seconals (a barbiturate sleeping pill). Both Daisy and Karen have their input discounted by their male peers, drawing attention to the sexist culture of rock music in this era, but both fight back with bravado, insisting that their voices be heard and their contributions taken seriously. With hindsight, Daisy Jones notes the lifestyle of excess prevalent at the time while describing a party: "Champagne and coke and bikinis around the pool before we realized the drugs were killing us and the sex was coming for us, too."

Reid's characters are layered and endlessly fascinating, prompting deep emotional investment from the reader. Billy's wife Camila is the book's unsung hero, as she motivates her husband to be a better man, supports Daisy despite her knowledge of her feelings for Billy, and maintains her own solid and independent identity. The author also offers fascinating insight into how different people can have contrasting recollections of the same events, as the narrative threads of the novel weave in and out of one another, and characters remember their own words and actions as being perhaps more honorable than they really were. These disparities demonstrate both the fallibility of memory and the natural human tendency to remember oneself in the best possible light. There is a clever reveal at the end that adds a new wrinkle of resonance to everything that came before, a deft plotting technique by Reid.

Those who remember the culture and music of this era with fondness will be especially delighted with this trip down memory lane, though no prior knowledge of the period is required. It's worth noting that the audio book is especially entertaining, as there is a whole cast of actors reading the various parts (including Jennifer Beals and Judy Greer). But if you don't go that route, you can always get out your old classic rock records and jam while you read.

Reviewed by Lisa Butts

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in May 2019, and has been updated for the February 2020 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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