I have been eager to read a Taylor Jenkins Reid novel for a long time now after hearing all of the praise for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (which I hope to read very soon). After reading Daisy Jones and the Six, I can see where the admiration of her writing comes from – the woman is talented. Daisy Jones sucks you into the Rock ‘n’ Roll world of the 70s…I gave Daisy Jones and the Six a 4 out of 5 stars and I can’t wait for the TV adaptation to be released.
The structure of the novel is one of its most interesting and admirable components. Daisy Jones and the Six is written as a compilation of interviews from members of a fictional band and those involved with them throughout the years. This immediately brings into play a theme that I have mentioned before as being one of my favourites, that of unreliability. The book begins with a fictional Author’s Note in which the “author” admits that she found a “comprehensive approach impossible” due to certain people being hard to track down, others refusing to provide any information and those who did differing in their recollections of what happened. She, therefore, states that “the truth often lies, unclaimed, in the middle”, which I thought was a perfect explanation for the reliability of this book. It is understandable that accounts will differ as people want to portray themselves in a particular way or even just don’t remember correctly as it is many years on by the time they are sharing these events. Reid did a fantastic job with this idea, reminding us every now and again that not all accounts can be trusted and that this is an amalgamation of different character’s opinions and emotions and she did it in such a realistic way – if you were not aware that this was a fiction book, it would be easy to read it and believe you are reading real interviews about a real band. I need to include a huge spoiler in this section of the review as it was my absolute favourite part of the novel – THAT TWIST! (If you haven’t read it yet, I’d recommend skipping to the next section!) At the very end of the book, we are smacked in the face with a shocking revelation when the author interjects: “Wait a minute…I am, in fact, the only one that can corroborate this essential piece of Daisy’s story” (93). After believing for the entire novel that we have been reading a set of interviews compiled by an objective author, we are casually informed that the author is, in fact, Julia, Billy’s daughter. This puts the entire novel into question as she may well have manipulated it for certain ends, for example, to portray her parents in a better light. She has been pretending to be uninvolved in the events up until this point, meaning we have been lied to all along. Furthermore, the characters taking part in her interviews may manipulate the facts for her sake, for example, when Billy is talking about her mother or how he felt about Daisy. Daisy Jones and the Six is up there with The Catcher in the Rye for me in terms of being an example of a perfectly executed unreliable narrator and I hope it will be studied as such in years to come.
The characterisation in Reid’s novel is admirably done, considering the format used, and I couldn’t help but be completely invested in Daisy and her journey. Daisy’s story is a sad one but also a common one, which can be summarised when she realises:
suddenly it was like I existed. I was a part of something…I was drinking and smoking anything anybody would give me…I’m pretty sure my parents never even noticed I was gone. (1)
Daisy receives no love or attention from her parents and so seeks it from other sources. Unfortunately, she finds it in all the wrong places – drugs, alcohol and people (particularly men) who don’t care about her at all. She admits herself, looking back after years of therapy and time to review her actions, that she got caught up in this world, with these people, because she “was just so desperate to hold someone’s interest” and “didn’t know how else to be important” (2). Due to this desire to be loved, Daisy marries Niccollo Argentino, an altogether wrong ‘un who does not care for Daisy the way she wants him to and exploits her for her money. However, she eventually leaves him and, as her biographer, Elaine Chang, states, “that’s when she was fully self-actualised, fully in command of herself” (82). This is an inspiring part of the novel as Daisy believed that she needed a man like Niccollo and his love in order to be happy but she is, in fact, the best version of herself without him and his influence and is able to find who she really is without the help of others. Daisy is written beautifully both through her own words and those of others describing her. Reid forces you to fall in love with her and be upset by the struggles and waste of such a talented and, ultimately, good individual and thrilled by her growth throughout the book.
As I’ve said before, if a book discusses issues of gender, I’m going to mention it and Taylor Jenkins Reid examined it in all the right ways. The main way in which issues of gender are challenged throughout the book is through the character of Karen, a woman trying to make it big in a ‘man’s world’, who provides us with countless feminist one-liners and I either smiled or cheered at each one. Here are some examples:
Men often think they deserve a sticker for treating women like people. (8)
Rod told me to wear low-cut shirts and I said, “Dream on,” and that was about the end of that. (9)
That’s the glory of being a man. An ugly face isn’t the end of you. (10)
I mean, I want nothing more than to be friends with this woman in real life. However, Reid didn’t just challenge these issues head on, she also opened them up for discussion, both between characters and between us, as readers. One of the most important passages for me in the novel was that of Daisy and Karen’s conflicting views on how women should dress:
Daisy: I dress how I want to dress. I wear what I feel comfortable in. How other people feel about it is not my problem…Karen: If we want to be taken seriously as musicians, why are we using our bodies? (65)
This is a hugely important idea that is just as relevant in our day and age and one that I find difficult to find a prevailing answer to. Why do women use their bodies to sell music? Is it the only way? Can women dress provocatively without it being for a man’s gaze? Is it always intentional of women to behave this way or are they genuinely just wearing what they want/acting how they want? It’s an issue in itself that we women are hit with so many questions when it comes to just choosing an outfit but that’s what our society has produced. I’m constantly going back and forth between celebrating female celebrities who don’t feel the need to dress conservatively and promote self-love, and critcising them for promoting the sexualisation of the female body for material ends. It’s a difficult issue but one I feel we all need to consider.
A huge thank you to NetGalley and Cornerstone for providing me with the e-Arc for this fantastic novel! Have you read Daisy Jones and the Six? What did you think? Are you adding it to your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!