“Women will crush you, you know? I suppose everybody hurts everybody, but women always seem to get back up, you ever notice that? Women are always still standing.”
No one is more surprised than me that I loved Daisy Jones & The Six. But in order to understand why I was surprised that I loved it, I must first explain some of the beef that I’ve had with Taylor Jenkins Reid in the past. So, about three years ago, I decided I was going to buy a copy of Reid’s novel Maybe in Another Life after reading the premise and thinking that it sounded like a really good idea for a cute contemporary fiction novel. Right? Wrong. I hated it. It was awful. The writing was terrible and the characters were even worse. It had no depth and felt like a Danielle Steel-type book that you find in a pharmacy (no shade if you like that sort of thing – it’s just definitely not my thing). This was also back in the days when I couldn’t allow myself to abandon a book even if I hated it, so I forced myself to read the entirety of a book I could not stand (which, looking back, is completely my own fault). But still! I was upset. I spent money on a book I thought I was going to love and I hated it so much. I ended up giving away my copy in a bag of books I gave to a friend. It’s nothing personal against Taylor Jenkins Reid herself but I spent money on her and her book was bad! It’s a bookworm’s prerogative to hold a grudge when that happens! Anyway, so a few months after that whole incident, Reid’s next novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo came out and it felt like everyone I knew who read books was over the moon for it. I became vehemently against reading it despite the praise and recommendations because I was still pissed over Maybe in Another Life, but ultimately, I gave into the peer pressure and ended up checking it out from the library a few months after the craze died down. As much as everyone on my Goodreads feed was in love with it, I was not. It was definitely better than the last book of hers I read, but I didn’t find it to be the original and compelling novel that everyone made it out to be. Reid’s writing style definitely left something to be desired for me. It again felt too much like a Danielle Steel-type book with little depth and originality. Especially since Evelyn Hugo was supposed to be this insightful look into the career of a fictional star, I really didn’t find it all that special.
So then, this year, when Reid’s latest novel Daisy Jones & The Six hit shelves and, again, it felt like everyone and their mother was rushing out to buy a copy (it also helped that Reese Witherspoon both picked it for her book club and had also optioned the screen rights for it before it had even come out). I, again, watched the craze from afar and figured I would do the same thing I did with Evelyn Hugo: wait until the craze dies down and find it at the library, since Daisy Jones actually did interest me more than Evelyn Hugo and I actually hadn’t received as many bombarding recommendations. Daisy Jones follows in the footsteps of Evelyn Hugo in that it’s also the story of the life and career of a fictional star, or in this case the story of the lives and career of a legendary seventies rock band. Daisy Jones is told in interview format for a new biography about the band, wherein it almost reads like a script for a documentary. But what struck me most about the narrative style was that it grabbed me almost instantly and didn’t let go until the last page. As much as Evelyn Hugo was reminiscent of the real-life stories of Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor and that was also an interesting premise for me given I enjoy the stories of tragic female figures, Daisy Jones ended up being even more interesting for me given that I am even more consumed with the lives of recording artists and their legacies. If I may quote a blurb from another author on the back cover, “Filled with passion, complexity, and fascinating detail, Daisy Jones & The Six felt so real, I had to remind myself that it was fiction.” And that’s exactly how it felt reading it. Sometimes the details about this band that doesn’t even exist were so consuming and gripping that I often forgot it wasn’t real. I definitely enjoyed that aspect of it since that’s very much my cup of tea; analyzing and reading about the lives of others whose careers interest or inspire me.
What also strikes me about Daisy Jones in comparison to Evelyn Hugo is that the majority of the same people who gave high ratings and rave reviews to the latter were more likely to give mixed and negative reviews to the former. Reviews of Evelyn Hugo praised the writing style, its originality, and feminist themes, but those same reviewers tended to criticize Daisy Jones‘ interview format, called it predictable and not all that insightful, and said they very quickly grew bored with it in comparison to Evelyn Hugo. As far as writing style goes, I think it’s safe to assume that I am not Taylor Jenkins Reid’s biggest fan. However, since she was writing entirely in the voices of her characters in Daisy Jones, leaving no room for a narrator or anyone outside of the characters giving testimonies, I think I enjoyed Reid’s writing style in this book over her others that I’ve read since it allowed less room for the shallow writing I’ve found in her other books. I also find it interesting how all of the reviews that commended Evelyn Hugo for being a groundbreaking feminist story were not as quick to claim the same thing with Daisy Jones, which in comparison was a much more original story and offered more feminist insight into an era rarely fictionalized by other authors. Old Hollywood and the studio system, as portrayed in Evelyn Hugo, has been fictionalized by countless other authors and Taylor Jenkins Reid didn’t even do a good job at it. But she did do a really good job at the gender expectations of the seventies music industry in Daisy Jones. I especially enjoyed the contrast that the men of The Six faced virtually no struggles or limitations when they started their band, having complete creative freedom and control since they were men, but Daisy Jones was immediately typecast by her record label and forced to record things they knew would sell without looking at her own songwriting. Gender power dynamics like this still exist today in most of Hollywood and beyond, but it was much more prevalent in the seventies and I enjoyed the subtle ways in which Reid acknowledges that throughout. “That’s how it was back then. I was just supposed to be the inspiration for some man’s great idea. Well, fuck that.”
Despite the fact that the ending of the story was a bit predictable, I was still excited to read until the end and learn all of the sorted details to the demise of this legendary, iconic (and fictional) band. I also understand why some readers grew tired and bored with the interview style, since it does almost read like a neverending script and I will admit my eyes got tired after awhile. Some also criticized how Daisy Jones attempted to tackle numerous different issues without really centering on any of them, but to me it read as if all of the things that took place (coming of age in a male-dominated industry, sexism, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, and the band’s relational dynamics) were being tackled simultaneously because all that and more actually took place. Except they didn’t. I keep forgetting this is fictional! I also understand why others said they got bored with it since, in the second half of the book, it does feel like not that much happens. But it still felt eventful and interesting to me since all of the action was taking place retroactively through the stories of those who were there. Like I said, Daisy Jones & The Six grabbed me from the first page and didn’t let go until the last. I still have to remind myself that these people don’t exist, because they felt so real. I’m excited to see what Reese Witherspoon and Taylor Jenkins Reid concoct for the screen adaption of Daisy Jones, since I think it could translate very well into a television series. 5/5 stars.