Book Review: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

Where to start with how much I loved Daisy Jones & The Six? It’s a glorious evocation of the drug-fueled rock scene of the 1970s, and at the same time, it’s a deeply personal look inside the hearts and minds of rock gods, revealing them as ordinary people in an extraordinary time and place.

The book is presented as an oral history of the band, tracing it from early days to the huge flame-out at the peak of their success. The various band members, plus assorted producers, managers, rock critics, friends, and family, tell their version of the events. The accounts don’t necessarily line up. There are secrets that some know and others don’t; one person’s fond memory of a particular performance is another’s memory of bitter rivalry and slights.

The voices of Daisy and the others really come through. They’re unique personalities, despite there being so many of them. Through all these people, we really travel with the band on its climb to wild glory. Daisy is a rich-kid teen when we meet her, full of fire and energy and utter dissatisfaction. Her parents barely notice her, so she goes to the Sunset Strip to find a place for herself, first as a groupie, then eventually getting noticed for her raw talent and gorgeous voice as well.

Meanwhile, The Six — who started out as a pair of brothers with a talent for guitar — start to get gigs and develop a following. The band is full of talented musicians, but it’s lead singer Billy Dunne who’s the true rock star of the group, succumbing in the early days of the first tour to the lures of sex and drugs and non-stop partying. Billy’s wife Camila steps in to get him sober, and from then on, he’s pulled between his soul-deep commitment to his wife and daughters and the always present temptation of the out of control rock and roll life.

When Daisy records a duet with Billy (“Honeycomb”), the song is a huge hit, and eventually the idea is floated: Maybe Daisy should join The Six? Their voices and musical styles mesh perfectly. Daisy Jones on her own and The Six on their own were getting attention, but together, they’re superstars. In a mad frenzy of creativity, Billy and Daisy write the breakthrough album Aurora together, and the band seems destined to become the greatest rock and roll band of all time.

Daisy Jones & The Six gives us all the heartbreak of devastating love, both the requited and unrequited varieties, as well as the jealousies and competition and resentments that simmer below the surface of a group that wants to have equality, but sees two of their own becoming breakaway stars with all the power. We also see the expected ravages of the constant drug use, but here, it’s happening to the people telling us their story, so it’s particularly powerful and heartbreaking, even when we can see what terrible decisions they’re making.

I really don’t want to give too much away. This is a book that should be experienced. I love that the book includes all the song lyrics from the Aurora album at the back — and I also love all the fan club materials available here. How cool is that to see pieces of the album cover and the liner notes, as well as the band bios? Also, check out the trailer video:

Doesn’t that just make you wish you were there at one of their concerts? I know while reading the book, no matter how much I enjoyed reading the song lyrics, part of me was dying inside because I wanted to hear Billy and Daisy actually singing those songs! Did author Taylor Jenkins Reid have music to go with the lyrics? Inquiring minds want to know!

In terms of my reaction to the book, for Daisy, I got kind of a 70s Carly Simon vibe (in terms of looks, not voice or temperament). This isn’t necessarily because of her physical description in the book, but just the sense I formed in my own head. Something like these: (note: images scavenged from Pinterest)

And when Billy invites Daisy up to sing with The Six for the first time, I got this kind of feel in terms of the moment and their chemistry:

(Sorry, it’s been a while since I’ve watched me some Shallow… couldn’t resist.)

Back to Daisy Jones & The Six: I loved it. It’s rock and roll, it’s the 1970s, it’s deeply personal, and it’s one heck of a powerful read.

I’m a fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid (although I’m hanging my head in shame over not having read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo yet). She’s such a talented writer, and this book is simply a treat. Don’t miss it!

Interested in this author? Check out my reviews of:
After I Do
Forever, Interrupted
Maybe in Another Life
One True Loves

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The details:

Title: Daisy Jones & The Six
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication date: March 5, 2019
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten 1970s Horror Novels

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. For this week’s top 10, the topic is Top Ten All Time Favorite Books in X Genre — pick a genre, and write about whatever books you love. I was drawing a blank until a friend and I ended up discussing The Omen (yes, it just happened to come up in conversation), and that’s when I decided to make my list about all those amazing 1970s horror books with awesome covers:

1) The Omen by David Seltzer

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2) The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

The Exorcist

3) Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon

Harvest Home

4) Audrey Rose by Frank De Felitta

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5) ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

stephen king salem's lot signet 1976 pb

6) Suffer the Children by John Saul

Suffer the Children

7) The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

The Amityville Horror

And three more books that — while not truly horror — certainly are horrifying in their own way, and are iconic works of the 1970s:

8) Jaws by Peter Benchley

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9) The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

The Stepford Wives

10) Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan

Logan's Run (Logan, #1)

What genre did you pick this week? Share your links, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following Bookshelf Fantasies! And don’t forget to check out our regular weekly features, Thursday Quotables and Flashback Friday. Happy reading!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

 

Book Review: If If Ever Get Out Of Here

Book Review: If If Ever Get Out Of Here by Eric Gansworth

If I Ever Get Out of HereIn If I Ever Get Out Of Here, main character Lewis Blake faces yet another lonely year as the only Native American kid in the all-white smart kids’ class at the local junior high school. As a rez kid in 1975 Buffalo, New York, Lewis knows that 7th grade will probably bring more of the same for him — sitting alone, talking to no one all day until he rides the school bus back to the Tuscarora reservation with the kids he grew up with. Much to his surprise, though, one of the new kids from the town military base doesn’t seem to care that they’re from different worlds, and the two boys soon strike up a friendship over their love of the Beatles and Paul McCartney.

But friendship only extends so far. George and his family welcome Lewis into their home and their lives, but Lewis just can’t quite bring himself to return the favor. Lewis lives with his mother and uncle on the reservation in a house that’s literally falling apart around them, and he’s sure that George would drop him in an instant if he ever got a real sense of just how poverty-stricken Lewis really is.

If I Ever Get Out Of Here is both a coming-of-age story and a portrait of Native American life. In it, the author vividly describes the challenges faced by the children of the reservation, who may attend the white schools but know that they’ll never really leave the rez. In this pre-PC world, outright racism is common in the local community, and when Lewis is targeted by a much-feared bully who’s known for his hatred of “Indians”, none of the adults are willing to intervene. It’s up to Lewis to take a stand, and his bravery leads to both triumph and betrayals as the repercussions are felt throughout the school and the town.

Above everything, If I Ever Get Out Of Here celebrates two universal forces for good: Sincere, unwavering friendship, and the power of rock and roll. George and Lewis are good kids with their heads on (mostly) straight, who understand the importance of family, and who’ve grown up in one form of isolation or another. They bond and connect with a sense of trust that moves beyond the barriers of race and economic class. What truly brings them together, however, is the music, and this book is saturated with the delight of discovering something new and true through the grooves of a vinyl album.

George and his father manage to find tickets to a Paul McCartney and Wings concert in Toronto (although Lewis has to endure the comment from a friend’s dad, “Hope you didn’t get scalped,” complete with hand gestures illustrating just what a scalping would look like). Yet once the concert starts, all the stresses of being the lone Indian among a sea of white people fade away, as Lewis observes the awesome glory of being in a crowd at the perfect rock concert:

The guy next to me grabbed me by the armpit and insisted that I stand on my seat. I was short enough that doing this didn’t make me much taller than anyone else, but I still crouched a little to even the view for the guy directly behind me. A minute or so later, that guy tapped me on the shoulder and yelled that I was fine standing. He was tall enough to see… The strangers around me made me one of them. It was almost like being home on the reservation, and I let myself enjoy the surging excitement.

The Beatles, Wings, Queen, Bowie — these form the soundtrack of the boys’ lives during their junior high school years (and provide the chapter titles in If I Ever Get Out Of Here), and the author thoughtfully provides us with a detailed, lovingly compiled playlist at the back of the book.

This young adult novel strikes me as appropriate perhaps for older middle-grade readers as well, although they may be less familiar with the historical elements that come to life here. In all the different facets of life facing Lewis, the settings ring true. The casual racism and cruelty experienced by Lewis may be shocking to young readers raised in today’s more aware society, but the fear and pain caused by bullying are certainly something that kids of any era would be able to relate to.

Written as a first-person narrative using straight-forward language, If I Ever Get Out Of Here lets us inside Lewis’s head and Lewis’s world, and both are fascinating places to be. As a visit back in time and to a world that most white Americans either can’t or don’t want to see, this book engages the reader’s heart and mind. Lewis is a terrific main character — not a perfect boy by any means, but an overall really good kid who is proud of his people but doesn’t want to be confined by old rules. If I Ever Get Out Of Here vividly captures the dichotomy experienced by the Native American youth who feel a deep sense of belonging within their communities on the reservation — but whose opportunities for better lives lie elsewhere.

I recommend this book for teens and adults alike. The people feel real, the dialogue and events capture the essence of the 1970s, and the music just makes it all come to life. Most of all, it’s a tribute to true friendship — the kind that’s loyal, steadfast, and lifelong — and the difference it can make in a lonely boy’s life.

Review copy courtesy of Scholastic via NetGalley. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Flashback Friday: The Far Pavilions

Flashback Friday is my own little weekly tradition, in which I pick a book from my reading past to highlight — and you’re invited to join in!

Here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

The Far Pavilions

The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye

(first published 1978)

From Goodreads:

After the death of his parents, young Ashton Pelham-Martyn is brought up as a Hindu in a remote corner of British India. As an adult soldier he returns to India, where his love for a princess and his dual heritage make for an epic story of adventure and romance.

This is a huge book, somewhere around 1,000 pages depending on which version you pick up, so in terms of bookshelf space and usefulness as a doorstop, right up there with the Game of Thrones books (yes, I know that’s not what they’re called, but it’s quicker to type) and my beloved Outlander series.

I remember absolutely loving The Far Pavilions when I read it so many years ago. It really is a perfect blend of historical fiction — depicting life and society in India under the British Empire — with a stirring, romantic tale of forbidden love. Ash is a wonderful character, a British boy raised by his Indian nurse after his own parents’ death, with conflicting loyalties and a confused identity. We see him through his youth, his return to British society, and his military service, and his reunion with a long-lost childhood love and his desperate attempt to save her from a cruel fate. The love story of Ash and Anjuli belongs among the ranks of the best tortured, tragic, against-all-odds lovers in fiction.

The Far Pavilions was published during a decade in which big, sweeping historical sagas were dominating the bestseller lists. In a time in which Shogun by James Clavell, The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, and War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk were all hugely popular, it makes sense that so many were drawn to The Far Pavilions as well.

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join the Flashback Friday fun, write a blog post about a book you love (please mention Bookshelf Fantasies as the Flashback Friday host!) and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!