Want to know what everyone is reading right now? Daisy Jones & The Six. It is the story of a 70’s rock band rising to superstardom; told through a series of interviews with the band members and a few of their personal acquaintances. It chronicles what led to the band’s rapid success, and soon after, their tumultuous break-up. The book is written as though Daisy Jones & The Six were an actual band, famous and fleeting.
The concept of this book is undeniably enticing. I’m late to the reading party (everyone seems to have read it already). Although I didn’t start reading it as soon as I got my hands on it, it’s probably my most anticipated read of the year (so far).
On the positive side, the book piqued my curiosity from the very first page, in the “Author’s Note”:
“This book serves as the first and only time members of the band have commented on their history together. However, it should also be noted that, on matters both big and small, sometimes accounts of the same event differ.
The truth often lies, unclaimed, in the middle.”
I geek out over stories that play with the truth; stories that make the reader wonder what to believe. There is a strong element of that throughout this book. One band member will recount something with utter conviction that another band member will recollect in complete contradiction. What really happens to this band, as the author’s note suggests, seems to exist in a gray area between each character’s perspective. It’s up to the reader to interpret fact from fiction.
As might seem natural in a story about a 70’s rock band, quite a lot of the story centers around the theme of drug use and addiction. That aspect of the book was interesting, and somewhat insightful; for example:
“I thought about trying to force her into rehab. But you can’t do that. You can’t control another person. It doesn’t matter how much you love them. You can’t love someone back to health…”
That’s a powerful quote for anyone struggling to love and support someone battling with addiction. There was some good content in this area, though it certainly wasn’t a deep portrayal. A couple of the characters struggle with drugs and alcohol, but in terms of plot element this seems to resolve rather quickly and simply.
Probably the best part of this book is its contribution to feminist literature. It reads almost like a feminist opus. The female characters are all very strong, individually. Take the character Karen, who is the band’s keyboardist – nearly every quote from this character is saturated in feminist grit, such as:
“Men often think they deserve a sticker for treating women like people”.
Karen is arguably the strongest feminist voice, though all of the female characters are strong in this way. Yet, what I found even more exciting was that the female characters look out for each other, and lift each other up. For instance, Daisy and the male front runner of the band, Billy, have a relationship fraught with sexual tension. It would be reasonable to assume that Billy’s wife, Camila, would not take kindly to Daisy. Yet, there is a lovely scene between the two women that ultimately sets Daisy on a healthy, redemptive, path in her life. So the book features strong individual women, made even stronger by their relationships with each other.
Although I appreciated all that feminist sisterhood and moxie, it disrupted my belief in the story. It is clearly a novel written post #metoo movement. Certainly, there is much merit in this type of novel; stories of that ilk are vital and necessary. The only drawback in this particular instance was that it distracted me from the plot. I felt like I was reading feminist commentary filtered through the lense of the 70’s era, rather than a realistic depiction of a band rising to stardom in the 70’s rock and roll scene. It was too contemporary for the era of the story.
That may partially explain why I didn’t connect with the characters. I realize that many people who loved the book will disagree with me, but I found the characters quite one-dimensional. That is not to say they weren’t developed. It was more like they were over-developed, each in their specific role in the novel. Karen, the obvious feminist. Billy, the egomaniac. Camila, the nurturer. Daisy, the free spirited, broken, artist. I was reading caricatures, rather than characters.
I caught glimpses of what other readers loved about this book. Overall though, I was underwhelmed. Maybe the hype around the novel, and the excitement over the concept of the book, set my expectations too high. I would put this book in the beach read category. It’s a quick read, and the concept is fun.