Book Review for “Daisy Jones & The Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
By now, because of all the hype and publicity around this book (which I very uncharacteristically gave into), I’m sure most people already know that this novel is about a rock band from the 60s and 70s who had a huge success with their album first “Aurora” and then – poof – disappeared from the music scene altogether at the height of their fame. Written like a transcript of a documentary, the conceit here is to use this unique format to discover how they came together, what made them click, and hopefully find out why they broke up so suddenly and unexpectedly.
First of all, you have to give it to Reid in writing something so different by using this type of a mechanic. It really is totally enthralling, and actually exciting to have the characters speak directly to the reader (or should I say the person making the documentary), with practically no commentary. I mean, even the “author’s note” at the opening isn’t by Reid, but rather from the character who collected these interviews. That short opening is very revealing, and readers should go back to it right after they’ve finished the novel, just to fully understand this book, and to remind us that each and every character in this book are unreliable narrators, including the “author”. That little bit reminded me of the novel “The Princess Bride” and how Goldman blurred his fantasy and his reality in telling that story, and made himself into one of the characters. Not quite the same thing, I know, but the essence of the blurring is what I’m referring to here.
The thing is, all that hype didn’t prepare me for the last few pages (before the lyrics to the songs on the album), when I realized that everything I’d read up until then (which I already loved) was leading up to a type of twist-like inclusion that puts the whole book into a completely different perspective, and I can’t say a word about it because you know that I wouldn’t put a spoiler into my reviews. That was what made me go from “oh my” to “WOW” in an instant, and what made me SO glad that I’d splurged and gave into my temptation and bought this in hardcover the first time I found it slightly reduced. (I think I’ll have to put a GPS tracker inside this book in case anyone wants to borrow my copy!)
But enough of that, right? I mean, if I’m going to be effusive, you’ll all get bored; if I have to be illusive as well, then you’ll all get frustrated. So, to avoid that, let me say that the weakest part of this book are the lyrics to the songs from the famous (or infamous) album that Reid added at the end. Remember, I come from a background in poetry, and I also have an extensive, if informal, musical education. Therefore, I think I know a thing or two about song lyrics, and to be honest, while there are some really great lines in some of these – in particular, in the album’s titular song “Aurora” – on the whole, they’re less evocative than the cast of characters describe them as being. Furthermore, they all seem to have a very similar rhythm to them, which made them feel slightly monotone, as a collection. That said, because the sheet music wasn’t included with these, and because you can’t get the whole experience of a song through the words alone, I can imagine that Reid envisioned something coming out of these lyrics that was far more eclectic and varied than what is presented here.
That brings me to another thing altogether. That is, that one author who read and raved about this book (Greer Macallister) said that she read the audiobook version. Now, I’m not really into audiobooks as a rule (primarily due to my lack of opportunity to listen to them), but this novel is one I think I’d like to get as an audiobook, especially because from what I can see, they got a whole cast of readers to participate in that recording, which must make it feel even more convincingly like a real documentary. This should make you not the least bit surprised to hear that Amazon Studios recently announced they’re making this into a web TV series! While I’m pleased that Reid is getting this type of praise and recognition for this novel, a TV series is just a bit appalling to me – and they’re talking 12-13 parts!
Look, I can totally get listening to the audiobook, but I am NOT convinced I want to see the filmed version of this. Sure, it could be done very effectively, maybe even something award winning. But honestly, aside from the fact that I’ve already got my own idea of what each of these characters look like (and I’ll be pissed if they miscast some of these parts), I am very worried that the slam realization I had at the end of this book might either get overlooked, or worse, become too obvious, especially if they ruin this part by putting that bit in the beginning (because you know how television producers think we’re not smart enough to get it on our own. Then again, they might not properly understand the significance of this, which is even more likely). No, first and foremost read the book – in print, or as an audiobook, it doesn’t matter – just read it, and you’ll understand why I’m strongly recommending this book with a full five out of five stars (despite my mostly bland reaction to the song lyrics). If you still want to see the TV series afterwards, then go ahead. But I promise you, you’ll be missing something extraordinary if you don’t read or listen to this book first.
Penguin Random House released “Daisy Jones & The Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid on March 5, 2019. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Walmart (Kobo) US eBooks and audiobooks, the website eBooks.com, iTunes (iBook or audiobook), Wordery or The Book Depository (both with free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from an IndieBound store near you.