Book Review: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Daisy Jones & The Six is an incredibly fast-paced and immersive experience. This is because the world described within is so familiar, yet distinct from our own. I was a few decades away from being born in the seventies, when the events of this book take place, but the rich cultural imagination that I found myself situated within while reading this text captured my attention in ways both big and small. Much like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, another book by Taylor Jenkins Reid that I reviewed last year, Daisy Jones & The Six has a frame story, though the style is slightly different. In this case, the story is told via the compilation of an oral history by an unknown (at the outset of the novel) author who is purporting to tell the true story of Daisy Jones & The Six, which was one of the most explosive bands of the seventies — in more ways than one. Reading this book made me want to listen to this band, given that so much about it surrounds the music that the members of the band made with and about one another. The book includes the lyrics to the tracks from the songs of the iconic album produced by Daisy Jones & The Six in the back of the book, so I have that at least, but I do wish that I could also hear the music. This is something that I also felt about The Air You Breathe which I reviewed earlier this year, and has a similar theme to both this novel and Evelyn Hugo in that all three books tell alternate histories of somewhat tragic stars.
I have to say, however, that I found very little empathetic connection to Daisy Jones. I don’t think that liking a protagonist has anything to do with whether a book is a good or not, and I do in fact think that Daisy was well-written and, although frustrating, her actions were logical given her personality and the situations she found herself in. There were many aspects of her character that at times I admired, and I definitely grew to respect her in an odd sort of way, but all the same I didn’t like her, and I have some very serious qualms with the lack of consequences she faces for her stunningly poor decisions. That is not to say that she faces no consequences; more that every few pages as I read, I nodded to myself thinking “that would never work if she weren’t a skinny white girl”. That’s not even just me; I’m pretty sure she actually says something to that effect partially through the book (at the very least the part about being skinny; I’m not certain about being white). There is also frequent mention of the fact that Daisy is constantly handed everything and never has to work for it, to a point that is almost cruel at times, so the author is definitely aware of how privileged a state Daisy exists in. The more I read on, the more I realized that this was only a book that could have been written about white people, which honestly was part of what led to the immersiveness, because I had to insert my thinking into a kind of narrative that only allowed for certain portions of the world to exist, a particular way in which to conceive of the culture at the time.
I was disappointed with this narrow, disappointingly white and heterosexual book after reading Evelyn Hugo. I understand that not everything can be queer all of the time, but there was a perfect opportunity for one of the characters who was constantly going to visit his girlfriend who never came on tour with him and was kept distinct from the rest of the group to secretly be a boyfriend rather than a girlfriend, and that would be the minimum of playing to a stereotype. There were a few mentions of gay people existing and the main characters not hating them for it, and one side character outed in the where-are-they-now as an afterthought, but that’s about it. In terms of diversifying, I’m also disappointed with this in terms of racial diversity. There is one character who was low-key coded as black for most of the book and in the final chapter is so explicitly written in black English that it’s off putting based on how subtle the previous implications were, not because there is anything wrong with a character who code-switches, but that it only occurs in this one instance remains odd and inconsistent, which comes off as racially insensitive.
For all that this was a book about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll — and there was a lot of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll — this book really ended up being about family and showing up for people when they need you, and how the people we love aren’t always how we expect or want them to be, and that’s OK, because people make their own choices about how they want to live their lives, and that’s up to them to decide. Daisy Jones & The Six is ultimately a book about how fundamental truths that shape us and those we love aren’t always the truth, and that there are two sides to almost every story, and often they are, if not both right, both understandable. There’s a great deal of excellent nuance, and most of the characters felt fleshed out and alive in a way that shakes me to my bones, as only good books do. I just wish that the book could have been more inclusive, because I think it would have been that much better for it.