Desert Isle Keeper
Daisy Jones & The Six
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.
AAR staffers Shannon Dyer and Lisa Fernandes read Daisy Jones and the Six, and are here to share their thoughts on the novel.
Shannon: In the summer of 2017, I fell hopelessly in love with Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and I’ve been a devoted fan of this author’s work ever since, so, of course, when I saw she was releasing something new, I knew I had to read it. What drew you to this novel? Had you read any of Ms. Reid’s previous works?
Lisa: I’m completely unfamiliar with the author outside of this book! I ended up picking it for a couple of reasons; I love rock music and the rock and roll scene, and I love messy stories such as this one. And the oral tradition/interview style storytelling really grabbed my attention.
Shannon: I’m not always a fan of stories told in letters or interview snippets. Some authors can make this particular narrative style work well, but it often falls flat for me. Fortunately, Ms. Jenkins Reid drew me into the story from the very beginning, and I ended up really enjoying the way the novel was structured.
Lisa: I LOVED the way this story was told. I’m familiar with the style (Live from New York, Slimed!, Please Kill Me and a lot of oral tradition-style nonfiction has been written that way recently) so it was fun to see it applied to a fictional novel. Jenkins Reid is masterful in balancing every single point of view and giving them time to grow.
Shannon: Since we see events from various perspectives, it’s not always easy to know what really happened and what can be chalked up to failing memories or different interpretations of the same situation. Did that make it difficult for you to piece events together in your mind, or did you find things to be pretty clear-cut?
Lisa: In a story like this – set in the twisty, topsy-turvy wonderland of life in the late 60s/70s rock scene in LA, when everyone is fueled by drugs, alcohol, ego, sex or all four, – I expected conflicting stories and differing opinions and memories to be put forth. That’s part of what makes this story so good!
Shannon: I wholeheartedly agree! The story would not have been nearly as compelling if everyone’s perceptions matched up perfectly.
Both Daisy and Billy have strong personalities. Did you find either or both of them to be sympathetic, or did they frustrate you?
Lisa: Daisy was a bit of a conundrum. There was a lot of ‘Daisy is a genius! Daisy is an icon!’ going on in this novel – yeah, and Daisy is also a drug addict and a pretty big narcissist, very self-involved and reckless. I feel like a lot of people made excuses for her genius, which is frankly hard to ascertain when you’re reading a fictional novel about a musician whose music you can’t hear (And the lyrics I read at the back of the book frankly don’t scream genius rock star to me). But on the other hand I found her sympathetic, quirky and vulnerable in places – hungry for love that refuses to come to her.
Billy’s biggest problems were rage and ego. Rage that his father refused to acknowledge him, rage over his battle with Eddie over control of the band. And he was very, very easily led astray. But again – he cared about Camila, cared about his daughter, cared about his family and his brother.
Shannon: First off, I really wish we could hear their music. As you said, we’re constantly told how brilliant these people are, but we have no way to verify that. It’s obvious that both Daisy and Billy are extremely troubled, though the demons that plague each of them are different. I found them both to be compelling, mostly because of their various flaws.
Shannon: Daisy and Billy obviously have an extremely complex relationship. How do you think it compares to the one Billy has with Camila?
Lisa: It’s a very classic battle of lust versus love with the three of them. Camila refuses to be used or to let Billy put music before her (spoiler: he does it anyway) and their daughters but she wants to share in and appreciates his talent. She loved him, and he was nearly overcome with romantic love for her at times. He worshipped Camila to a degree and yet he’d get drunk and then cheat early in the relationship, when he was high. And then enter Daisy. With Daisy, on the other hand, who was the off the wall wild child with no self-control and sometimes no sense of self-preservation; she wants Billy because she lusts after him, because he pushes back, and unlike the rest of the world he’s the one man she can’t have. With Billy and her it was a classic love-hate-push-pull-Stevie-versus-Lindsay situation – they were equals with equable talent who make musical magic together, trying to claim a band that was careening out of their control. Naturally, when you have a musical soulmate like that, passion is going to ensue. I felt Billy and Daisy’s conflict, and I understood it, and Camila’s strength was a perfect response to the whole situation.
Shannon: I felt really badly for Camila throughout the story. Her deep and abiding love for Billy was almost palpable, and, despite Billy’s sometimes sappy declarations of love for her, he often put his career ahead of her and their children. When Daisy entered the picture, Billy’s selfishness was magnified to epic proportions. The tension between these three is at the forefront of the entire novel, and I found myself loving and hating all of them at different times.
Shannon: I wasn’t born until 1980, so I have no personal experience with the time period in which the story is set. Having said that though, I found the author’s depiction of the 1970s to be quite evocative. Certain passages made me feel like I’d traveled back in time and was experiencing things right along with the characters.
Lisa: I was born the same year and entirely missed out on the 1970s myself, but I’m familiar with supergroup explosions like this one (again: I love Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles) and with the Sunset Strip culture of the time (Thank you, Pamela des Barres). The author does a great job of capturing the cocaine soaked, hedonistic time, and also the general spirit of a struggling rock band making it huge.
Lisa: Who else among the band intrigued you? Did you enjoy any of their stories? I was pretty partial to sardonic and turtleneck-wearing Karen Karen and her difficult relationship with Graham.
Shannon: Karen Karen was fantastic. She added so much to the story without managing to eclipse the leads, and I’m guessing that’s exactly the role she played in the band as well. She’s talented in her own right, but in a much quieter, more laid-back way from those who are always in the spotlight.
Lisa: What about the other interview subjects? I really liked Simone.
Shannon: I wish we could have known Simone better. I loved her loyalty to Daisy as well as her unflinching honesty. She tells it like it is, even if those aren’t the things people want to hear, and I admired her for that.
Shannon: What’s your final grade? I’m going with an A-. This is a solidly original story with a surprising amount of depth of both plot and character. It’s the kind of thing I want everyone to read and embrace.
Lisa: It’s a solid A- from me too; a great novel, absorbing,with interesting, flawed and complicated characters. The only thing that keeps me from giving it an A is the fact that Daisy and Billy are going to be a lot to take for some readers. And, to be honest, the author’s choice concerning the book’s ending was disappointing and narratively convenient. But I will recommend it in spite of my extremely mild misgivings, because the book is excellent.