Saturday, 13 July 2019

Daisy Jones and the Six

Image result for daisy jones and the sizx
Taylor Jenkins Reid

Written as a series of interviews , Daisy Jones and the Six chronicles the rapid rise and fall of one of the most popular band of the Seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid creates an entire band and their history from scratch, piecing it together through snippets of dialogue and creating a fully realized cast of characters. 

Billy Dunne, the charismatic frontman for a band called The Six, is destined to be a rock legend after two successful albums.  Daisy Jones is an up and coming name in the music industry with a raspy voice and a look that is uniquely her own. Tormented, soulful, and beautiful, she has that ‘it factor’ that draws attention like nothing else.  When the manager of The Six gets Daisy to feature on their album, the music is explosive. The albums that follow are the stuff of legend; however, after a few short years, the band dissolves and they are never heard from again. What happened to these rock gods and why did they quit at the peak of their career? Years later, the mysterious interviewer writing this book collects stories from all members involved in the band to tell their story.

I listened to this book as an audiobook and highly recommend that experience to anyone and everyone. It is recorded with a full cast for every band member, manager, family member, and fan on the street; as such, you really feel like you are listening to real people telling their story.  To top this off, they also recorded one of the songs written by the fictional band and played it at the end of the audiobook. It is so easy to forget that this band is a figment of Reid’s imagination with such a vivid cast of unique characters.

This book, though fictional, reads like a memoire. Similar books I have read and enjoyed include Joni Mitchell’s In Her Own Words, and Love Janis, a book of letters and personal stories written by Janis Joplin’s sister.

Monday, 17 June 2019

To the Bright Edge of the World

To the Bright Edge of the World
To the Bright Edge of the World
By Eowyn Ivey

It’s 1885 and Colonel Allen Forrester has been assigned to lead his men up Alaska’s Wolverine River.  The journey will take them from Prince William Sound in the Gulf of Alaska, through narrow canyons and passages not yet explored by white men, and down the Yukon River to the Bering Sea.  They will travel deep into the territory of the Midnoosky Indians where, a century before, the Midnooskies massacred a group of Russian explorers.

The dangers are very real, but Colonel Forrester ensures that he is accompanied by capable men, including a translator.  He employs some of the Indians he meets, paying them to assist on the journey.  His practicality is tempered only by his love for his wife, Sophie.  Newly pregnant, Sophie awaits the Colonel’s return to their cabin at the Vancouver (Washington) Barracks.

An adventurous and unconventional woman, Sophie purchases a camera while her husband is away and occupies her time taking pictures of her beloved birds and developing photos.  She must face the prying eyes and judgmental nature of the other barracks ladies, most of whom find her hobby rather unbecoming.

Contrast this with the Colonel’s journey far from the civilized world.  Although he is prepared for physical hardship, he does not know how to cope with some of the unearthly terrors that besiege his party. When the Indians warn of the dangers in the mountains, where the dead roam, the Colonel dismisses them.  But he must concede that he cannot explain many of the events that transpire.  

Among other things, the Colonel’s party must contend with the local shaman, or the Man Who Flies on Black Wings.  “[T]he natives believe the Old Man can change the weather, make people sick or cure them, as suits his mood...  Today he’ll rob you blind, but tomorrow he might give you a warm blanket when you need it most.” (p. 59)

Most appealing about this novel is its format.  Written as a series of diary entries, official reports, letters and newspaper clippings, To the Bright Edge of the World even contains photographs and maps.  The book, although fictional, is like a tome of historical artefacts waiting to be uncovered.  I love the way it weaves together mystery, the supernatural, and a detailed, albeit imaginary past.

Highly recommended!

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You
Everything I Never Told You
By Celeste Ng

Lydia Lee, favoured daughter of James and Marilyn Lee, sister to Hannah and Nathan, intelligent, beautiful and perfect in her parents’ eyes, is dead.  A non-swimmer, Lydia is found floating in the lake.  Her parents immediately blame an outsider.  But Lydia, it turns out, is not what she seemed.

In small town Ohio in the 1970s, the Lees are an anomaly.  James is Chinese – Marilyn is white.  Growing up, James was often the object of ridicule, and as an adult he still acutely feels the pain of being ostracized.  James put all his efforts into his education, and he excelled.  But what James wants now for his daughter is popularity and conformity – he wants her to fit in.

Like James, Marilyn excelled in school.  In university, she was often the only woman in her science classes.  Men never took her seriously, but Marilyn persisted.  But pregnancy changed all that.  Now a mother of three, Marilyn desperately wants Lydia to succeed where she failed.

Both parents badger Lydia constantly about school and friendships.  She is signed up for accelerated science classes, given pretty dresses and told to go to the dance.  As the pressure mounts, Lydia becomes more and more dishonest about who she really is.  She just can’t maintain the perfection that her parents expect.

Each family member’s story is slowly revealed as the novel goes on.  Nathan is a lover of astronomy and an excellent student.  When he is accepted to Harvard, his parents barely notice.  Nathan is also a very perceptive brother.  He sees the pressure that Lydia is under and offers his comfort and sympathy.

Hannah is younger and creeps about like a cat.  She has grown up being ignored.  She has become silent and watchful, with an uncanny understanding of her elders.

In Lydia’s case, her unhappiness ultimately leads to her death. But was it suicide?  Was she lured to the lake by the undesirable boy she’s been hanging out with?  Each family member pursues their own leads.  In the end, despite their dysfunctionality, Ng offers hope that this family can, somehow, make amends.