DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid

daisy-jones-1This is the second Taylor Jenkins Reid book that I’ve read and this is the second time Taylor Jenkins Reid book that has left me emotionally drained. ⠀

I am turning into quite the fan.⠀

I like her direct style of writing: spear-like prose designed to immediately pierce the most hardened, cynical shell. I like her melodramatic and convoluted plots that immediately hook you and absolutely refuse to let go. Mostly, though, I love her characters: lively and alluring; broken and nuanced; intractable and infuriating; infinitely interesting and impossibly human. Jenkins Reid writes great unsavory characters, the sort of people you may not want to be friendly with, but with whom you are perfectly willing to spend an evening that will be certain to be full of great stories and conversation — and maybe even greater mischief. Daisy Jones definitely joins the ranks of Jenkins Reid’s own Evelyn Hugo as one of the best, most fully realized characters I have read in a long time.⠀

Daisy Jones & The Six is the story of an old school rock and roll band comprised of these same sort of explosive characters. The book is presented as an oral history, chronicling the meteoric rise and fall of the band during the seventies. ⠀

A couple of years ago I read — and loved — Meet Me in the Bathroom, Lizzy Goodman’s oral history of the rock and roll revival in New York City during the early aughts. I was reminded of the book a lot while reading Daisy Jones & The Six, as it essentially tells the same sort of story, only on a much more smaller, more personal scale. So I really enjoyed the format, which helps the story feel even more immediate and intimate. And, if you have an affinity for writing natural dialogue it’s a format that can serve a fictional narrative well. Jenkins Reid writes great dialogue, and does a great and admirable job with the form, faltering only with one crucial misstep.

The fact that this is a story told by multiple characters inherently means that it is a story told by unreliable narrators. This is a standard trope, tried and tested since time immemorial, and here it makes for great moments of humor (the numerous ways the characters contradict each other over the most trivial things), as well as moments of heartbreaking pathos (the myriad of misunderstandings and missed opportunities and things left unsaid). It also proves to be the book’s greatest weakness, however, giving rise to a twist that feels deeply unnecessary and that sadly casts a cheap light on the story as a whole. It’s a tragic ending in the sense that it is very weak, wasting much the momentum and the emotional build-up (of which there is a lot).⠀

But it’s the characters who are the saving grace of any story, and it’s no different here. Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne are the obvious standouts of course — like the stage’s spotlights, the focus of the book is entirely on them — but it’s the characters standing just outside the limelight that have stayed with me the most. Karen Karen, keyboardist of The Six, with a tenacity and courage that reside behind an infectious personality. Daisy Jones is an acutely feminist book, and Karen’s story is the most representative of this conceit. I cared about her perhaps more than any other character. And with Camilla Dunne, Jenkins Reid has written a character of such complexity and charm who in a lot of ways outshines Daisy Jones. Everyone in the book talks at length about how easy it is to fall in love with Daisy. I spent the majority of the book wondering how everyone wasn’t just falling head-over-heels for Camilla. But that is, of course, Camilla’s story.⠀

Poor ending aside, Daisy Jones & The Six is an emotional roller coaster ride. And you can’t help but feel invested in the lives of this memorable, messy, and charismatic cast of characters. Can’t help but be enthralled by the theatrical and deeply romantic story Taylor Jenkins Reid is telling. And, most importantly, you can’t help but be mesmerized by the inimitable Daisy Jones & The Six.⠀

—⠀

So this was the first time in a good while that I listened to an audiobook! I kept reading about how stellar this production was and I just had to give it a go. It was great! It’s a brilliant cast and they did a marvelous job. It was nice hearing Benjamin Bratt’s voice again, and Pablo Schreiber continues to deliver consistently great performances — he’s such an underrated actor. Jennifer Beals as Daisy is just a dream, her voice having the right amount of rough smokiness to sell the fact that, yeah, I can totally hear an aging rock star in those vocal chords. My only issue with it is that it is advertised as unabridged when it’s really not. I read along with an ebook copy (I just don’t have the attention span for audiobooks), and there were several bits that were just skipped. Not enough to really affect the story, mind, but enough that it was noticeable. So why say it’s unabridged at all?⠀
But I really enjoyed the experience, overall. I’m a fairly fast reader and get through books in a manner of days — this one took me a while, but I liked taking my time with a story, and sitting with it a little longer. It definitely helped. (I listened to it on normal speed, by the way. Genuinely don’t understand how anyone can listen to anything faster than that and not be distracted by the chipmunk voice effect it produces. You guys are nuts.)

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