Books I Re-read in 2021

Re-reading is one of the greatest joys of being a reader. I’m the type of person that will watch the same movies and shows over and over, listen to the same songs over and over and yes, you guessed it, read the same books over and over. When I love something I go in hard, what can I say? πŸ˜‚

The fun of re-reading a book is in experiencing a story, world and characters I love all over again with a greater appreciation for them. I tend to notice finer details on re-reads that I missed the first time around, learn more about the world, connect more to the characters and fall even more deeply in love with the things that I loved about the book the first time. I particularly love re-reading books when I’m in a slump because turning to books I love reminds me of what I love most about reading and reignites my desire to read. So here are the four books I re-read this year and my thoughts following the re-read.

Wuthering Heights

Anybody that has read any of my other posts will already know Wuthering Heights is my favourite book of all time, so it’s no surprise that it’s on this list. I re-read it right at the start of the year in February and the dreary, gothic tone of the book fit perfectly with the winter season. I did an annotated read and took my time to read it, really immersing myself into the story. I filled the pages with endless annotations and picked up on the many layers of this novel. I loved my re-read even more than my first time reading it because I was able to really sit with the book and feel the emotions of it. It’s a book that I have a constant craving to re-read simply because there’s something about the atmosphere and the characters that is so compelling and completely immerses me into the words on the page. The re-read only cemented it as my favourite and reminded me of its brilliance and uniqueness.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

I turned to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo during a reading slump near the beginning of the year and it achieved exactly what I wanted and reminded me why I love to read. This book feels more like a film than a book. I can picture everything so clearly in my mind and I feel like I’m watching it on the big-screen as I’m reading. Evelyn is such a complex character and her life so crazy that I loved being able to further analyse her. This re-read actually inspired my post ‘Queerness and bisexuality‘ where I wrote about the depiction of sexuality in the book. It’s one of the few books I’ve read that not only has a main character that’s bisexual but actually claims the identity and uses the word bisexual to describe herself. There were certain plot twists that didn’t hit the same the second time around but I loved re-visiting Evelyn and the relationships in this book.

Daisy Jones and The Six

After finishing The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I couldn’t resist picking up Daisy Jones and the Six. I was pleasantly surprised by this book the first time I read it and wasn’t sure it would hold up on a re-read, but I was wrong. I actually loved this book even more the second time round. During my first read I was completely invested in Daisy and Billy, but this time I was able to appreciate the other characters more. I still loved Daisy and Billy, of course, but was also more connected to the stories of the minor characters. It reminded me that Taylor Jenkins Reid was able to create characters that feel so real that at times it felt like I was reading a memoir about a real band.

Twilight

Now this is a re-read I never expected to happen but after binge watching the films on Netflix one weekend, I felt the urge to dip my toes back into the books for the first time since I was a teenager. It was a strange re-read because on one hand I found myself really enjoying it, and on the other I was very bored. I’d forgotten just how much of this book was Bella gushing about what a stunningly handsome and perfect adonis Edward is. As someone that doesn’t particularly enjoy reading romanc, it was a snooze-fest at times, but I did enjoy the nostalgia of returning to the series. I’ve seen the films so many times that they’ve replaced my memories of the books so it was fun getting back to the roots of the Twlight universe and being reminded of little details that I’d forgotten. I’m hoping to continue with my re-read and may even do some posts dedicated to it in the future πŸ‘€

Do you enjoy re-reading books? Did you re-read any books in 2021? If so, share in the comments, I’d love to hear about the books you re-read and whether your opinions or feelings towards the book changed.

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

The Song of Achilles – Book Review

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication year: 2011
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: Major character death, murder, violence, slavery, abduction, abandonment, torture, rape (mentioned), human sacrifice, human trafficking, self-harm, child abuse, and war.

Synopsis

A modern retelling of the Greek myth the Trojan War from The Iliad told from the perspective of Patroclus and Achilles.

What I liked

  • Patroclus’ characterisation
  • Patroclus and Briseis’ relationship
  • Historical elements
  • The depictions of love

What I disliked

  • Writing style
  • Slow pacing
  • The ending

Plot and Structure

Since the book is a retelling of a popular and widely known Greek myth, as expected, the plot and structure is largely based on The Iliad. Madeline Miller definitley put her own spin on it, but the core essence of the story is the same but written for a modern audience and exclusively from the perspectives of Patroclus and Achilles. It’s structured chronologically, beginning with Patroclus’ childhood. It builds his backstory and traces the origins of his relationship with Achilles before progressing to the events of the Trojan War. It includes the major plot points from the original myth but tweaks some things, particularly at the beginning and end. As all retellings should, it takes a popular story and gives new insight. The emphasis on romance was a little excessive for my tastes and I would’ve preferred more plot. This was particularly apparent towards the end where the tragic romance story took front and centre stage.

Whilst I generally enjoyed the plot and most of the changes that were made, it did feel slow throughout. This isn’t necessarily a disavantage, because it allowed space for me to get to know and connect with Patroclus, but there were parts that I found boring, particularly in the first half. Futherore, although Patroclus and Achilles’ perspective brought new insight, it hindered the story in other ways, leaving little room for some other significant characters.

Overall, the book wasn’t very plot-driven and was very focused on setting, themes, characters and relationships. Generally, these are the aspects of books that I enjoy most but there was something that just didn’t quite sync up in the way I expected to, but more about that in the Characters and Relationships section.

Writing Style

I struggled to connect to Miller’s bland and simple writing style. The tone of the writing didn’t match the tone of the story and pulled me away from the story multiple times. Whether it was the use of short sentences, lack of fluidity or plain language, it didn’t sell the story in the right way. It’s an epic tale and Miller portrayed Patroclus and Achilles’ relationship as a tragic love story, yet the writing was just okay. It achieved what it needed to but didn’t evoke the emotion from me that truly great writing usually does. It was clear and concise, but I would’ve liked more flower, this is a retelling of The Iliad afterall.

We were like gods at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.

Characters and Relationships

I liked Patroclus as the main POV Character. His characterisation was standard for the “average guy turned hero” archetype, but his empathy and desire to do the right thing. In a world where power and status was what men most valued, Patroclus defied expectations. He acted out of his conscience, love, loyalty and duty. His compassion offsets Achilles pride and their differences sets the underlining moral message for the entire story. Patroclus was the most defined and nuanced of all the characters. The other characters were in the background, and even Achilles himself suffered from a severe lack of development, feeling more like a caricature than a fully rounded character. This was most likely because most of what we learned about Achilles was from Patroclus’ perspective who had rose-tinted glasses when it came to Achilles.

Leading on from that, this is where the review gets controversial – I didn’t like the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. My issues with this relationship were in part because Achilles was under-developed but also because their love seemed to magically happen despite having nothing in common. It’s particularly unfortunate, because the romance was the main focus of the story and the emotional impact of the ending was very dependent upon how invested the reader is in Achilles and Patroclus’ love.

Interestingly, I was more invested in Patroclus’ relationship with Briseis. It felt more complex, nuanced and sincere, and explored the blurry and complicated lines between platonic and romantic love. It was built on genuine connection, companionship and a liking for one another, none of which Patroclus seemed to have with Achilles to the same extent. Patroclus’ dynamic with Briseis was definitely the most captivating to me of all the character dynamics.

Concluding thoughts

The Song of Achilles has receieved a lot of hype in the book community in recent years and although it has its merit, it didn’t blow me away. Madeline Miller has proven with this book and Circe that she’s able creatively take myths and adapt them for modern audiences, making them accessible and entertaining. By shifting focus to Patroclus and Achilles, Miller was able to add new depth and perspectives to the ancient myth. Whilst I enjoyed reading the book overall, it was lacking in a few areas. The emphasis on the romance was a barrier for me in emotionally connecting to the story because I disliked the way Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship was written. However, I enjoyed the underlying themes around love and pride, and the exploration of different types of human love and bonds. Overall, it had all the ingredients for a 5-star book, but the execution fell short and the overtly cheesy romantic ending left me feeling luke-warm.

I’d recommend The Song of Achilles if:

You’re looking for a romantic, modern retelling of a Greek myth with a gay romance.

Have you read The Song of Achilles or are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Book recommendations for Black History Month

October is nearing its end and I couldn’t let it end without acknowledging Black History Month β€οΈπŸ–€πŸ’š Black History Month is a time to share, educate and celebrate black history, culture and identity. Books written by black authors are a crucial part of this as they give voices to the lived experiences of black people across the globe. I’ve been so pleased to see black authors becoming visible and spoken about in mainstream publishing and the book community, but there is still more to be done.

I’m always conscious of being diverse and inclusive with my reading because so much of the value of reading for me is gaining insight into the lives and experiences of others and developing greater empathy. I’d encourage all readers to also be mindful of the authors they’re reading and to read and support books by black authors, not just during October, but all year round.

Now let’s get into the recommendations. I have seven books (sorry to those of you that are a stickler for even numbers!) and it’s a varied selection from non-fiction to YA to historical fiction, so hopefully there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

12 Years a Slave

I’m starting with 12 Years a Slave because if there is any book you should read off this list, it’s this one. This is a harrowing and authentic insight into slavery in South America through the eyes of Solomon Northup, who was born a free man and kidnapped and sold into slavery as an adult. Northup’s writing immersed me completely into the hell that he was living and his compassion, astuteness and determination connected me deeply to him. His account shines a light on the realities of slavery exclusively from the black perspective and provides an interesting perspective since the narrator experienced living as both a free man and a slave. As expected, it’s an emotionally challenging read, but books like this should make us uncomfortable. This is our history and the pain and trauma that resulted from generations of slavery continues to impact black people and families today.

Giovanni’s Room

James Baldwin is one of the best known black authors of all time, so it seems fitting that he made it onto this list. Set in Paris, this book is an exploration of queerness in the 20th century. The protagonist, David, is faced with a choice between two people he loves. However, it’s not just a struggle of choose between two people he loves, it’s a struggle between a man and a woman, who symbolise two vastly different possibilities and futures for David.Β  Baldwin’s writing is raw, honest and complex. He doesn’t attempt to gloss over the messiness of figuring out your identity and sexuality, he dallies in the grey areas and explores the spectrum of sexuality. This book is a truly fascinating insight into the intersection between same gender desire amongst men and masculinity. It fleshes out the conflict between manhood and the perceived imasculating desire for another man in the context of race. It also explores male bisexuality in a way that few classics do.

Noughts and Crosses

If you read My Favourite Children’s Book post, you’ll already know that this is one of my all time favourite books. It has be recommended a lot in recent years, particularly with the rise of Black Lives Matter, but that won’t stop me from recommending it again. Noughts and Crosses is a tale of racism, interracial love, oppression, family and division written for a young, modern audience. By switching the roles in the book’s universe so that the white characters are the oppressed and the black characters the oppressors, it enables white readers to empathise with the black experience more deeply. The genuine connection and love between the two main characters Callum and Sephy is the foundation that the story is built on. They exist in a world that not only divides them based on the colour of their skin, but actively tells them they should hate each other, yet they continue to love each other no matter how much the world tells them they shouldn’t. It’s a hard-hitting and emotional read, and the fact that it is categorised as YA and aimed at younger audiences, doesn’t in anyway detract from the valuable insight, commentary and messages the book contains about race.

The Vanishing Half

This multi-generational historical fiction follows identical twin sisters Desiree and Stella, one of whom lives life as a white woman and the other whom lives life as a black woman. Through contrasting the twins’ lives against each other, this book sheds light on the tenets of racsim that exist in every area of daily life. Similarly, it explores that blackness is more than the colour of someone’s skin, it is a fundamental part of identity. Stella’s privilege as a white-passing woman is contradicted by the constant fear and discomfort she feels at living a lie and having to conform to the white surburban community she is part of, which actively perpetuates the racism that convinced her to live her life as a white woman. Admittedly, I did have some minor issues with some of the plot conveniences in the book, but it’s nonetheless a fantastic read and provides insight into the complexities of race and the way racism evolves over time through the voices of generations of a family.

All Boys Aren’t Blue

If you’ve spent any time on my blog, you’ll have most likely seen this book at least a few times. I love this book so much and will recommend it whenever I get the chance. This memoir is honest in a way that no other memoir I’ve ever read has been. Johnson bares his soul, revealing the most vulnerable parts of himself and most intimate details of his life. Thematically it shares a lot of similarites with Giovanni’s Room, discussing constructions of gender, masculinity, sexuality and the intersection of being black and queer. It’s a short read but so educational, valuable and touching. I’d highly recommend the audiobook which is narrated by Johnson.

Stay With Me

Set in Nigeria, Stay with Me is an explosive, dramatic and surprising story that provides a detailed examination of marriage and family. It pushes the boundaries repeatedly and challenges expectations, taking the story into directions I didn’t expect. It’s steeped in Nigerian culture, and is educational in this regard for readers like myself that are unfamiliar with Nigerian culture.. As a modern couple, Yejide and her husband struggle against the Nigerian traditions and expectations surrounding, particularly regarding polygamy. The main character, Yejide, is an immensely nuanced, layered character that felt so real. Her emotions and motivations were easy to understand and empathise with, even when I didn’t agree with her actions. First and foremost, this is a family drama (one might even call it a domestic thriller of sorts) and is driven by deeply flawed characters. However, there is also so much valuable context and commentary about Nigerian history, culture and society. Unlike many other books in this list, race isn’t used as a lens of critical analysis, this is simply a story about the lived experience of black people living in one of the most populated black nations in the world.

Eloquent Rage

Eloquent Rage is an intersectional feminist memoir about social injustice, political discourse and the many facets of womanhood and race which impact the lives of black women. It strikes the perfect balance between discussion, academic research, reflection and personal experience. Unlike other memoirs, it doesn’t get too bogged down in personal anecdote nor does it become too clinical with endless statistics. It’s educational but also captures Cooper’s personal identity, experience and views. Her view on race is black-centric and focused on the ways in which black men hurt black women and the black community hurt each other in general. This perspective is rarely depicted in racial discourse since it’s generally reliant on the polarisation of the races, with the central theme being “black versus white”. It’s an insightful, thought-provoking and powerful read, which covers a lot of ground and does it very well. Cooper expresses her views and opinions candidly and clearly, and supports them with academic research.Β It’s by far the most informative and interesting feminist text I’ve read from both a gendered and racial perspective.

Happy Black History Month, my lovelies and keep reading β€οΈπŸ–€πŸ’š

Beyond Stereotypes: The Outsiders – Book Analysis

Book analyses are essays which closely and critically examine specific characters, relationships, topics or themes in a book.

❗ Spoilers ❗

Read my spoiler-free review of The Outsiders here.

Content warning: Mentions of classism, child neglect, child abuse, suicide.

The Outsiders is a complex insight into the class system that overlooks, devalues and scapegoats the working classes. It gives voices to the forgotten people that live on the fringes of society and are deemed unimportant. Ponyboy, Soda, Darry, Johnny and Dally are ostricised, stigmatised and labelled “white trash” or “scum” because of the communities they live in and their family backgrounds, both of which they have no control of. They’re villanised by their communities who see them only as caricatures based on their prejudices and societal stereotypes.

You greasers have a different set of values. You’re more emotional. We’re sophisticated-cool to the point of not feeling anything. Nothing is real with us.

In this story, Hinton humanises the people we have a tendency to dehumanise in our society. We can look at the actions of the characters in The Outsiders and say, “They’re terrible people that deserve to be locked up; they’ve lied, fought, killed, committed arson etc.”, but that’s an injustice to those characters because it fails to consider the context and context is always important. Ponyboy, Dally, Johnny, Soda, Darry and Two-Bit are young boys – children – who are impoverished, living in unsafe homes with volatile family units, absent or neglectful parents and communites that are plagued by substance abuse, crime and poverty. This does not justify the characters actions but it does humanise them and that’s important for so many reasons.

I could picture hundreds and hundreds of boys living on the wrong sides of cities, boys with black eyes who jumped at their own shadows. Hundreds of boys who maybe watched sunsets and looked at stars and ached for something better. I could see boys going under street lights because they were mean and tough and hated the world, and it was too late to tell them that there was still good in it, and they wouldn’t believe you if you did. It was too much of a problem to be just a personal thing.

In our society, we rely so much on boxes and categories and labels. We want everything and everyone to slot neatly into the binaries that we’ve created – male or female, black or white, gay or straight, good or bad, rich or poor – but none of these labels or binaries can ever fully capture the nuances of our lives or what makes us who we are. And that complexity of what it is to be human in a world that repeatedly forces us into various boxes and demands that we conform to those boxes or risk social isolation or loss of identity, is what Hinton achieved with this novel. She took a stigmatised group (young, white, poor males) and a stereotypical situation (crime, murder), and approached it from an angle that deconstructed these things to humanise the characters, without glossing over their awful actions.

Dally is a perfect example of this. He’s multi-layered. On the surface a stereotypical violent, criminal and self-serving jerk. But also a young kid that has lived an unstable life without parental guidance or care, who was forced to physically toughen up to survive in prison and was incredibly vulnerable. He valued self-preservation but was fiercely loyal and capable of selflessness and sacrifice for his friends. His relationship with Johnny encapsulated his vulnerability and reminded us how alone and unloved Dally is. Once Johnny was gone, he could no longer bear to live in the world. This fact alone demonstrates how devoid Dally’s life was of love and meaning, and his fate was heart breaking because of how young he actually was. His backstory and relationships with his friends doesn’t work as an excuse for the dark parts of Dally’s character but it did take him beyond the archetype of his character and deconstructed the stereotypes surrounding him, challenging even Ponyboy’s perception of Dally.

Dally didn’t die a hero. He died violent and young and desperate, just like we all knew he’d die someday.

Words hold so much weight and when we hear a word we immediately attach meaning to it. Labels and categories, in particular, can be very loaded words because they often come hand in hand with biases and prejudices. We categorise and label ourselves and others often based on surface-level information and those labels or categories come with a long history and very little context on an individual level. For example, we might assume that a person that has been to prison is morally corrupt, dangerous and perhaps “less than” someone that hasn’t been to prison. And in the moment when we are making that snap judgement, we fail to account for that person’s individual circumstance and identity beyond the “criminal” label. Once that label has been attached, we struggle to divorce our prejudices from the reality of context of what makes that person who they are, leading us to dehumanise them and perceive them as a living embodiment of that stereotype.

That’s why people don’t ever think to blame the Socs and are always ready to jump on us. We look hoody and they look decent. It could be just the other way around – half of the hoods I know are pretty decent guys underneath all that grease, and from what I’ve heard, a lot of Socs are just cold-blooded mean – but people usually go by looks.

For me, The Outsiders is about challenging these stereotypes. The novel goes beyond what it appears to be on the surface to provide social commentary on the norms and stereotypes that exist in our society and challenges them in a humanist way. It reminds us that despite our differences and the words, labels and categories we use to “other” each other and separate ourselves into subgroups, there’s an essential human connection between all of us, that we should always prioritise. This involves taking the time to focus less on our differences and more on our similarities, to challenge our prejudices and our judgements, to view people with openness, compassion and empathy and to account for the whole person beyond labels. The characters of The Outsiders represent the voices and lives of so many poor children that are abused or neglected, shunned and ostracised from society, that are derogatorily labelled before they’ve even reached adulthood and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ponyboy is the exception to that rule. He is the hope in the book, the one whose eyes are opened to this reality. He sees beyond the limits of his class to connect with Cherry and sees his brothers and friends as people, not just Socs or criminals. Ponyboy is the catalyst for the message about the importance of seeing beyond stereotypes to see the person and enables the reader to connect to that same message.

It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Pride Month Wrap Up

At the end of May I shared my Pride Month TBR and I wanted to give an update on the books I read in June. So, I read five LGBTQIA+ books last month, four of which were from my TBR and one which was a birthday gift from a friend. Here are my summaries of the books and my thoughts on them all ✨ spoiler free ✨ .

In the Dream House

Carmen Maria Machado

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Nonfiction
Publication year: 2019

In the Dream House is the first book I read from my TBR and it blew me away. It was an emotional and hard-hitting read with the author Carmen Maria Machado, recounting her experience of being a domestic abuse victim in a same sex relationship. The writing style was unique and encapsulating, and Machado’s voice swept me away in the story of her life. It’s value in raising awareness of abuse in queer relationships cannot be understated and this is one I’d highly recommend for everyone, particularly those interested in LGBTQIA+ topics and rights. You can read my full review for In the Dream House here.

The Passion

Jeanette Winterson

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication year: 1987

Reading The Passion was a wonderful experience. I was swept away by Jeanette Winterson’s stunning prose, writing style and storytelling. Despite how short it is in length, I was invested and connected to the characters and story. Set in the Napoleonic Wars, it follows two characters – Henri and Villanelle – whose fates collide leading to an unlikely relationship and journey. The characterisation of Henri and Villanelle was incredible. Winterson was able to establish them so well within 150 pages that I came away feeling a deep affinity to both characters. Their dynamic was authentic, complex and emotional, and anchored the entire story.

It’s very steeped in metaphors, symbolism and thought-provoking prose, so I don’t think a book as complex as this can be fully comprehended or appreciated on one read. I plan to come back to it re-read it at a slower pace, taking the time to sit with the words and fully reflect on the language and meaning. I was so close to rounding this up to 5 stars, but it just lacked that full emotional gut punch that typically leads me to give a full rating. Nonetheless, I loved this book.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Fannie Flagg

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication year: 1987

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the story of a small fictional town in Alabama called Whistle Stop. It primarily follows Mrs Threadgoode, an elderly lady in a reitrement home, and her daughter-in-law, Evelyn as they develop a close bond and Mrs Threadgoode shared the history of Whistle Stop and its residents. The story spans across decades, weaving together past and present with chapters alternating between the present with Mrs Threadgoode and Evelyn chatting in the retirement home, stories from the past from residents of Whistle Stop and articles from the Whistle Stop newsletter, “The Weems Weekly.”

Thematically, this book explored a lot of things that are of interest to me – family, community, identity, feminism, lesbianism, racism – but unfortunately, I found it difficult to connect to the story or the characters. I appreciated what Fannie Flagg was trying to achieve but it didn’t have the emotional weight it should’ve and was generally a rather underwhelming read as a result.

We Can Do Better Than This: 35 Voices on the Future of LGBTQ+ rights

Amelia Abraham (ed.)

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Nonfiction
Publication year: 2021

This book was bought for me by a friend as a birthday present and I devored it within two days. With a diverse range of voices from within the LGBTQIA+ community, this anthology of essays is wide-reaching and explored a variety of issues that queer communities are currently facing and have endured throughout history. It’s an intersectional approach to LGBTQIA+ rights with queerness being explored in the context of race, disability, faith, culture and legislation. As with all anthologies, there were some essays that I connected to and enjoyed more than others, but generally the quality was high.

It was a very emotional read and I cried multiple times, but it was also hopeful and empowering. Although there was a lot of representation, I did feel that there could’ve been improvements with this. There was a high proportion of essays written through the lens of being gay, trans and non-binary, but a clear absence of multisexual identities including bisexuals, pansexuals, omnisexuals and polysexuals. There was also only one chapter about asexuality and none about aromanticism. Although ths is a lesser known identity, there are plenty of asexual and/or aromantic public figures and activists that could’ve contributed to the anthology. Nonetheless, I appreciate that with 35 essays there’s limited time and space and overall, it did a brilliant job at capturing the core issues in LGBTQIA+ activism and the diversity of the community.

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Identity and the Meaning of Sex

Angela Chen

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Nonfiction
Publication year: 2020

This book was a fascinating and insightful read. It’s an journalistic perspective on asexuality within the context of Western society which is rooted in what she coins as “compulsory sexuality”. I wasn’t a big fan of the writing which felt clunky and jumped from one topic to another haphazardly, but Angela Chen opened up very important converations which apply to everyone regardless of sexual orientation. She uses asexuality to question the societal norms and expectations placed on people around sex and relationships, asking why sex is assumed to be such a focal point of all of our lives when for many people (asexual and non-asexual), sex simply isn’t a priority in our lives.

As a Chinese American, Chen adopted an intersectional perspective of asexuality looking at disability, race and religion and how those characteristics can interact with asexuality. She did a good job at capturing the diversity of the ace spectrum and debunking common myths surrounding asexuality. She also offered some food for thought and provided me with the opportunity to evaluate the ways in which socal norms and compulsory sexuality has impacted me as an asexual woman. However, it wasn’t a particularly mindblowing read since it felt like it was targeted more at non-asexuals as an introduction to the issues that asexuals can and do face. Having said that, asexuality is widely misunderstood, overlooked and stigmatised both in and out of the LGBTQIA+ community so to see books like this being published is essential for raising awareness and building momentum within the ace community.

Overall, I had a great experience reading these books and I’m looking forward to reading the other books that are on my Pride Month TBR but that I didn’t manage to get to in June.

Have you read any of these books or do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Queerness and bisexuality: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Book Analysis

Book analyses are essays which closely and critically examine specific characters, relationships, topics or themes in a book.

❗ Spoilers ❗

You can find a full spoiler-free review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo here.

Content warning: Discussions of biphobia, homophobia and sexual assault.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (TSHOEH) has multiple queer characters including the main protagonist and title character, Evelyn Hugo, who is an openly bisexual woman. Evenlyn has multiple romantic and sexual relationships with men and one serious long-term relationship with Ceila, a lesbian, whom she considers to be the love of her life. Evelyn’s character and her identity as a bisexual woman is going to be the focus of this post.

Queer representation in books has vastly improved in recent years, but there’s still a long way to go. It’s practically impossible to accidentally stumble upon a book with queer characters; it’s something that readers usually have to actively look for. Finding representations of bisexuality can pose even more challenges due to the high levels of bi-erasure both in and out of the queer community and across all mediums. Despite bisexuals representing over half of the LGBT+ community, its an identity that continues to be misunderstood and erased. Therefore, the power of having an explictly bisexual character with Evelyn saying the words, “I am bisexual” cannot be understated. It provides validation for bisexual readers and the significance of representation – of seeing ourselves reflected in what we read – is huge.

I’m bisexual. Don’t ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box, Monique. Don’t do that.

As a straight woman, Taylor Jenkins Reid (TJR) cannot always capture the complexity and first-hand experience of what it means to be queer, but she generally pulls it off well. Evelyn’s internalised biphobia, struggle to accept and understand her queerness and fear of being outed is particularly striking.

Maybe if I’d spent my whole life fighting off feelings for women, then I might have had a template for it. But I didn’t. I was taught to like men, and I had found – albeit temporarily – love and lust with a man. The fact that I wanted to be around Ceila all the time, the fact that I cared enough that I valued her happiness over my own, the fact that I liked to think about that moment when she stood in front of me without her shirt on – now, you put those pieces together and you say, one plus one equals I’m in love with a woman. But back then, at least for me, I didn’t have that equation. And if you don’t even realize that there’s a formula to be working with, how the hell are you supposed to find the answer?

Evelyn’s struggle to understand her sexuality and her feelings towards Ceila is a direct consequence of her attraction to and relationships with men. When the world in which we live is so binaried, often the only choices we believe we have are gay or straight. Evelyn is initially unable to recognise that her feelings for Ceila go beyond friendship and even when she does, her intense internalised biphobia prevents her from truly being able to accept it. This manifests itself whenever she’s faced with the possibilty of being outed and Evelyn immediately goes on the defensive.

Even when Ceila is insistent that she and Evelyn should be open about their relationship and to hell with the consequences, Evelyn is adamant that they can’t go public. It’s a recurring argument for the couple with Ceila tiring of having to hide and Evelyn insisting it’s necessary for their safety. In fact, when Evelyn is almost outed by a Hollywood newspaper, she takes the drastic action of eloping with a rock-star who she doesn’t even know which has a hugely traumatic outcome.

We’d tell the truth about our lives, and they’d bury us. We could end up in prison or in a mental hospital. Do you get that? We could be committed. […] The world is ugly, and no one wants to give anyone the benefit of the doubt about anything. When we lose our work and our reputations, when we lose our friends, and, eventually, what money we have, we will be destitute.

Evelyn’s fear of being outed and the consequences of that are very real for her and always at the forefront of her mind. She’s not just afraid of losing Ceila, but their careers, their money and everything they have worked to build for themselves. This fear is informed by the endless battle Evelyn has with internalised homophobia and biphobia.

Homosexuals were misfits. And while I didn’t think that made them bad people – after all, I loved Harry like a brother – I wasn’t ready to be one of them.

On the one hand, Evelyn embraces her love for Ceila and insists that it’s right; that it’s the world that’s wrong for not understanding or accepting them, but internally she feels turmoil over her relationship with Ceila. She never seems able to put the pieces together to make it work and ultimately sabotages her relationship with Ceila. What I struggled with most with the way this is written is that Evelyn’s reasoning for wanting to hide her bisexuality and relationship with Ceila is framed by TJR as being because she was fame and money hungry.

Now that I don’t have her, and I have more money than I could ever use in ths lifetime, and my name is cemented in Hollywood history, and I know how hollow it is, I am kicking myself for every single second I chose it over loving her proudly.

This completely invalidates Evelyn’s very real and justified feelings about coming out publicly. She doesn’t want to lose her career or money, that’s obviously a factor, but it’s so much more than that. Evelyn is genuinely afraid of what might happen to her and Ceila if they come out. The scene that really highlighted this for me was her reaction to the Stonewall riots.

I started crying when I realized those men were willing to fight for a dream I had never even allowed myself to envision. A world where we could be ourselves, without fear and without shame. Those men were braver and more hopeful than I was. There were simply no other words for it.

I knew it was imperative that I hide, yet I did not believe I should have to. But accepting that something is true isn’t the same as thinking that it is just.

Evelyn doesn’t hide out of selfishness or a desire for money or to protect her Hollywood career, she hides out of fear and because she believes it’s necessary for her safety and the safety of the woman she loves. She feels that she must make certain sacrifices in her relationship with Ceila to live a life free of discrimination, hate and danger.

I was under no illusions about how much it has cost Ceila and me to be together and it was gong to continue to cost us more. It was like a tax on being happy. The world was going to take fifty percent of my happiness. But I could keep the other fifty percent.

The one aspect of bi-erasure and biphobia that is handled very well is that which Evelyn faces from Ceila. It’s the type of prejudice and discrimination that bisexual women sometimes face from gay women. Ceila, like society, believes that there is only gay and straight and she projects her own identity and feelings onto Evelyn, even when Evelyn makes it clear that she’s not gay.

I hated being called a lesbian. Not because I thought there was anything wrong with loving a woman, mind you. No, I’d come to terms with that a long time ago. But Ceila only saw things in black and white. She liked women and only women. I liked her. And so she often denied the rest of me. She liked to ignore the fact that I had truly loved Don Adler once. She liked to ignore the fact that I had made love to men and enjoyed it. She liked to ignore it until the very moment she decided to be threatened by it. That seemed to be her pattern. I was a lesbian when she loved me and a straight woman when she hated me.

For me, this quote really captures the complexity of the tension that sometimes exists between gay and bisexual women. Ceila deeply loves Evelyn, but resents her attraction and past relationships with men. As a gay woman, she cannot relate to or completely understand Evelyn’s ability to be with men as well as women. She projects lesbianism onto Evelyn because it makes her feel more safe and secure in their relationship. This speaks to a very common aspect of biphobia – the assumption that a bisexual woman in a relationship with a woman will always inevitably leave her for a man. Despite Evelyn reassuring Ceila that she loves her deeply and is committed to her completely, Ceila’s insecurities get the better of her on occasion. It’s not to say that Ceila doesn’t have reason to feel the way she does, since Evelyn continues to have affairs with men whilst they are together and in the time they are apart, which brings me nicely onto my next point.

Although many aspects of Evelyn’s sexuality are well-written, the portrayal of her as a sexual woman and her ongoing sexual relationships with men plays into the negative stereotypes associated with bisexuals. Evelyn is an attractive, sexy woman and from a young age she willingly uses sex to her advantage. Her choice to sleep with Mick Riva is one that she makes out of desperation to hide her true sexuality and relationship with Ceila but may unwillingly contribute to biphobic narratives. Generally, Evelyn’s persistent sexual relationships with men insinuate that even when she’s in love with a woman and in a committed relationship with her, she cannot resist the lure of a man. This feeds into biphobic rhetoric about infidelity, promiscuity and the overbearing “straightness” of bi women. This is addressed by TJR with the following quote from Evelyn:

There’s a difference between sexuality and sex. I used sex to get what I wanted. Sex is just an act. Sexuality is a sincere expression of desire and pleasure. That I always kept for Ceila. […] Being bisexual didn’t make me disloyal. One has nothing to do with the other. Nor did it mean Ceila could only fulfill half of my needs.

This demonstrates some awareness from TJR that she was perhaps contributing to biphobic rhetoric in her depiction of Evelyn’s sexuality, so it’s important that she addressed that. Nonetheless, Evelyn’s insistence in Chapter 46 that it’s her selfishness and desire for fame that negatively impacted her relationship with Ceila is only half of the story. It feels lke a very purposeful attempt by TJR to take a backwards step and deny the significance of the consequences of Evelyn’s struggles with her sexuality and queer identity on her relationship with Ceila. Evelyn admits that her downfall is using sex to get what she wanted even when she had other options at her disposal, but there’s no acknowledgement that a large part of why she continued to use sex in this way is because she couldn’t accept her bisexuality.

I broke Ceila’s heart because I spent half my time loving her and the other half hiding how much I loved her.

This quote is taps into the true reasons for Evelyn’s actions and the hurt she causes Ceila – it’s because she never truly allows herself to love Ceila unreservedly, proudly and without shame. She’s unable to reconcile her love for Ceila with her bisexuality and uses sex with men as a form of self harm. This beckons to a very important and very real issue that bisexual women face of being at higher risk of sexual abuse, assault and harassment than straight women. In this regard, Evelyn’s experiences of poverty, domestic abuse and sexual assault are representative of the tragic experiences bisexual women face.

Therefore, despite the depiction of bisexuality in TSHOEH being flawed and sometimes contributing to biphobic rhetoric, it captures the core of a lot of the struggles bisexual women may face. It tackles the risks of poverty, domestic abuse and sexual assault that bisexual women face at disproportionate rates compared to straight women and actively addresses biphobia and bi-erasure. Many queer women, myself included, can see pieces of themselves reflected in Evelyn and that is important for so many reasons. Like Evelyn, many bisexuals today still do not have the formula to understand their attractions and sexual identity. Binaries continue to dominate our society and our understandings of sexuality and reading a book like this and finding a character like Evelyn might just help other queer readers to understand and/or accept their identity and live freely and proudly in a way that Evelyn was unable to.

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

The Vanishing Half – Book Review

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: Brit Bennett
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication year: 2020
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: Domestic abuse, racism, lynching, trauma, death of a parent, transphobia, sexual assault of a minor.

Synopsis

Identitcal twin sisters, Desiree and Stella Vignes, are inseparable as children but break apart and take different paths as adults – one living as a black woman and the other a white woman. In this multi-generational tale, we follow the Vignes sisters on a journey of love, loss and family.

What I liked

  • The emphasis on family and family dynamics
  • Writing style
  • Exploration of race and racism

What I disliked

  • The lack of detail on certain topics
  • The ending
  • How surface-level and unsatisfying a lot of the plot points and arcs felt
  • The lack of development of some of the main characters

Plot and Structure

Spanning 50 years from the 1940s to the 1990s, the book primarily focuses on Desiree and Stella and their families across three generations. The story opens with the return of Desiree to her Southern hometown, Mallard, after running away with her twin Stella at age 16. It’s then divided into sections by date and pieces together the events leading up to and after Desiree and Stella leave Mallard. Since this is a historical, literary fiction it isn’t particularly plot heavy and is focused on family drama with emphasis on the impact of racism on Desiree and Stella’s lives. It was rather slow paced, but engaging throughout because of how authentic the characters and their struggles felt.

The exploration of white passing was particularly fascinating. Stella’s ongoing struggle between her true identity as a black woman internally and a white woman externally was palpable. It’s impossible not to sympathise with the difficult choices she made to live the life she wanted and the sacrifce that went with those choices. Her character contrasted perfectly with Desiree who chose to live as a black woman and endure the discrimination, inequality and struggle that went with that.

Unfortunately, there was something missing within the story; a depth and emotionality that it just fell short of. There were so many interesting and important themes – racism, white passing, classism, transgenderism – but it only breezed past them. It felt like there were so many conversations between the characters that were omitted, details left out and the impact of certain events not fully explored. By the end, I was underwhelmed by the anti-climax of the sisters reunion and felt that a lot of what had been building was left by the wayside.

Structurally, I did find it a bit odd. Despite being divided into sections based on date, it wasn’t chronological and flashbacks were scattered througout which seemed to undermine the timeline. I love flashbacks in my books and liked how the flashbacks provided deeper insight into the characters and their past, but it did conflict a little with the timeline structure, in my opinion.

Writing Style

This is the first book of Brit Bennett’s that I’ve read but it certainly won’t be the last. Her writing style is beautiful. She’s able to craft a vivid setting and write complex, relationships and characters. The detail she provides is focused on the human aspect of the characters; their emotions, experiences and perceptions. Her use of dialogue is well chosen to represent each character, which is particularly effective in a story such as this which examines race and has both Southern and Northern American characters. The manner of speaking and colloquialism of certain characters reflected their geographical, racial and class background. However, I did feel that her writing focused a lot on experience and this resulted on some aspects of the narrative and characters not resonating with me as much as they could’ve.

There were many ways to be alienated from someone, few to actually belong.

Characters and Relationships

There was a good representation with the cast of characters. It was particularly refreshing to see a depiction of a trans character. The minor characters were interesting and time was taken to develop unique minor characters which I appreciated. However, the main characters weren’t the strongest. Desiree was the most complex and developed main character, but the rest of the characters never felt fully realised. I don’t really feel like I know any of the characters. I also felt that certain characters like Kennedy (Stella’s daughter) didn’t go beyond stereotypes.

However, the relationships were fantastic and probably my favourite aspect of the book. The romantic relationships were refreshing, understated and authentic, but the family relationships are what stole the show. The relationships are so complex; they’re fraught with tension, secrecy, pain, betrayal and hurt, but beneath that there’s love. There was acknowledgement of the dilemma between the family we are born into and our chosen family. Despite how family centric the book was, I liked that family wasn’t portrayed as something that was easy or a given. Love between families doesn’t always overcome hardships and sometimes people will choose themselves above the duty and obligation they have for their family. Generally, the relationship between Desiree and Stella was thought provoking and encompassed a lot of the conflict that can exist between siblings when they’re fundamentally different and want to establish themselves outside of that sibling relationship.

Concluding thoughts

The Vanishing Half is a wonderful, multi-generational family drama which captures the struggles of race, identity and family. The writing style is captivating and does justice to the heavy themes that are explored. Although the book fell short for me in regards to characters and the way in which certain plot threads and topics were brushed over, it was engaging and thought-provoking throughout. It’s a valuable read and the commentary around family and identity resonated with me on a personal level.

I’d recommend The Vanishing Half if:

You’re looking for a slow-paced family-centric historical novel which examines race in 1940s America.

Have you read The Vanishing Half or are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Book Review

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication year: 2017
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: Domestic abuse, alcoholism, misogyny, child neglect, statuatory rape, rape, underage marriage, slut shaming, homophobia, biphobia, toxic relationships, abortion, terminal illness, death/loss.

Synopsis

Evelyn Hugo, Hollywood starlet of the 1950s, has had a successful acting career spanning decades. She’s infamous for her talent and beauty, but it’s her scandalous personal life and seven marriages that is most intruiging. In a tell-all interview, Evelyn aged 79 finally reveals her life-story to young journalist, Monique.

What I liked

  • The plot
  • Evelyn’s characterisation
  • The themes
  • The setting (1950-80s Hollywood)
  • LGBTQ+ representation
  • Complex relationships

What I disliked

  • The jumping from past to present
  • Monique’s arc

Plot and Structure

The story begins with Monqiue, a young and fresh journalist who has recently started working for the magazine Vivant. When Evelyn Hugo gets in touch with Vivant to specifically request that Monique interview her, Monique is elated and believes she’s finally getting her big break. What follows is a story divided into seven main sections – one devoted to each of Evelyn’s husbands – as Evelyn recounts her life-story to Monique. Throughout, it flits from past to present, with a majority of the middle section focused on Evelyn’s past.

Similar to other books by Taylor Jenkins Reid (TJR) that I’ve read, the book is more character focused than plot heavy and the plot that is present is driven by the drama and emotional ups and downs of Evelyn’s life. Much like Daisy Jones and the Six it provides an insight into the explosive, tumultuous lifestyles of the rich and famous. It touches on the corruption of Hollywood within the context of the MeToo campaign, shedding light on the rampant misogyny and abuse that women in Hollywood and the media industry have had to endure and continue to suffer from. Most of the topics it touches upon are upsetting, but the way in which they were handled is incredible. There’s an authenticity to it and the characterisation of Evelyn’s character is so strong that it didn’t feel in any way exploitative. In general, I loved the plot from beginning to end and had only one gripe – Monique’s arc.

This was my second read of the book (see the end of the post for my first review), and I remember being indifferent about Monique the first time, but this time I just felt like she was unnecessarily stealing precious page time from Evelyn. I was so invested in Evelyn’s story and so addicted to her character and life, that I wanted to stay there and not be pulled back to the present. Monique does have a very important part to play in the story, and without her it wouldn’t be the same story, but unfortunately, her character and backstory is underdeveloped and in comparison to Evelyn who was such a big personality and character, she fell completely flat for me.

Writing Style

I really liked the writing style in this book. It’s not over the top prose; the language is modern but there’s an emotional depth to it which touched my heart. The dialogue is well-written and isn’t stiff or awkward like a lot of dialogue in historical fiction written by modern authors.

It’s always been fascinating to me how things can be simultaneously true and false, how people can be good and bad all in one, how someone can love you in a way that is beautifully selfless while serving themselves ruthlessly.

Characters and Relationships

Oh, Evelyn, Evelyn, Evelyn… as a character I love her with every ounce of my being. It is Evelyn’s character that makes this book worth every single one of those five stars. She’s one of the most complex, flawed and nuanced characters I’ve read in fiction. I love that TJR built Evelyn on so many cliche tropes but elevated her way above that. On the surface, Evelyn is a beautiful, successful Hollywood actress that every man wants to be with and every woman wants to be, but there’s so. much. more. to her than that. I could expand but would slip over into spoiler territory. If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on Evelyn’s character and her sexuality you can read a full analysis here πŸ‘€

The relationships are every bit as good as Evelyn’s individual character. It’s not just the main romance, but even it’s all of Evelyn’s relationships. Although some of them are awful and harmful to Evelyn, the honesty of what TJR captured in those relationships means that I can’t do anything but admire what she achieved with those relationships. Evelyn’s relationships and friendships are all complex and turbulent just like her and I enjoyed reading about those ups and downs even when they were at their extremes. The main love story is stunning and goes in directions you won’t anticipate.

Concluding thoughts

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is one of my all time favourite books. This book was the reason I fell back in love with reading and for that reason alone it will always hold a special place in my heart. However, this book also deals with very complex and important topics in a respectful, illuminating way. The characters (even minor ones) are dynamic and flawed as are the relationships. Although upon re-read, I felt that Monique’s arc could’ve been improved on, her significance within the story cannot be understated. I love that TJR manages to subvert all expectations and tropes with this story and if it’s your first time reading, I guarantee it will take you by surprise.

I’d recommend The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo if:

You’ve read Daisy Jones and the Six and liked it OR you’re looking for a historical fiction depicting the glitz, glamour and gossip of vintage Hollywood which explores hard-hitting topics, has a flawed, complex female protagonist and a heart-wrenching love story.

This review is based on a re-read. I first read the book in January 2020if you would like to read my original review you can find it over at Goodreads (it’s also spoiler free).

Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo or are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Daisy Jones and The Six – Book Review

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication year: 2019
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: Drugs, alcoholism, addiction, self-harm, domestic abuse, abortion and trauma.

Synopsis

Daisy Jones and The Six soared to stardom in the 1970s becoming one of the most successful and well-known bands in the world. Through a series of oral interviews the band’s history is revealed for the first time, chronicling the highs and lows of their journey from their inception to the their split.

What I liked

  • The characters
  • Daisy and Billy’s relationship
  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Depiction of the rock-star lifestyle
  • Exploration of difficult topics such as addiction
  • Writing style and format
  • Discussions around love and long-term relationships

What I disliked

  • Structure in places
  • Lack of development and weak characterisation of minor characters
  • The cast of characters could sometimes get confusing

Plot and Structure

The plot tells an autobiographical tale of the band members – Daisy, Billy, Graham, Karen, Warren, Eddie and Pete – through a series of oral interviews with the band members, their loved ones and journalists. Essentially, it’s a transcript for a documentary about the band’s life. It’s not a very plot heavy story and is almost 100% character driven with a particular focus on Daisy and Billy. I personally adored the plot. I enjoyed the drama, angst and heightened sense of emotion that went with the rock n’ roll lifestyle the band led. I also liked the way that a full picture was built up of the band, their lives, their relationships and their ups and downs as individuals and as a band.

Generally, I would be skeptical of the interview transcript format that Taylor Jenkins Reid (TJR) used because I would expect it to create a disconnect and lack insight into the characters emotions and thoughts, but it really worked for me. I felt connected to the characters and their stories. I also found that way the dialogue was used helped me to build a more nuanced picture of the characters than I would in a traditional first or third person perspective, because I was able to hear other people’s perspectives on the characters.

Structurally, it was organised chronologically with chapters sorted by key dates. This was easy to follow and made sense for the chosen format. However, were some issues with the structure of the dialogue from the interviews. On multiple ocassions it jumped from one character telling a story to another character telling a completely different story. At times this made it difficult to follow and created some irritation for me due to the lack of flow. I also sometimes felt like the extracts from the journalists were shoe-horned in. But when considering the TV documentary style that TJR beckoned to, I understood her choice to include the voices of third parties outside of the band and the immediate people in their lives.

Writing Style

There’s not much to comment on regarding the writing style. In comparison to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, the writing style here doesn’t really shine but that’s understandable considering the format. Since it’s written exclusively through dialogue, the language is colloquial and plain. Personally, I’m a fan of complex, flowery language and writing style is important to me, so this wouldn’t usually be my cup of tea. But because of the way that the story was told overall, the writing style wasn’t much of an issue for me.

Characters and Relationships

Where to even begin with the characters and relationships in this book? I love them SO MUCH. Admittedly the character work isn’t strong with all the characters. Daisy and Billy were the main characters with Graham and Karen being the secondary main characters. The others were in the background and never fully realised. I kept getting confused about who Eddie, Warren and Pete were because they were just there but didn’t really have a part to play in the overall story. However, I felt like this was a reflection of real life bands and the way that the spotlight is often thrust onto one or two key players and the rest of the band live in the shadows. Case and point: I’m a huge Oasis fan, but outside of Liam and Noel Gallagher I know next to nothing about the other band members 🀷 I did enjoy the part that Karen played in the book with the feminist themes that were included in her arc as a woman in the 1970s who rejected the gender norms associated with feminitity around romance and family. I also didn’t mind that some of the minor characters were underdeveloped because Daisy and Billy more than made up for that.

Let me tell you, Daisy and Billy have stolen my heart. These characters are deeply flawed and a lot of people won’t like them, but they feel so real to me. They’re toxic individuals with a lot of issues and represent what we see so much in the media of big rock star celebrities. The exploration of addiction and mental health was relentless and it worked so well because TJR didn’t hold back any punches. She wasn’t concerned about writing them to be likeable but writing them to be authentic. Their struggles and flaws were so humanising that even though I disagreed with them on pretty much everything they did, I still sympathised with them.

There were some great relationship dynamics too. Billy and Graham with their sibling relationship, the father-son relationship between Billy and the band manager Rod, the turblent relationship between Graham and Karen, Billy’s relationship with his long-term partner Camila and of course, Billy and Daisy. There was a lot of conflict and tension in all of the relationships between the characters which added to the character development.

I particularly loved the messages attached to Billy and Camila about commitment and marriage. It was a refreshing perspective to read about long-term relationships. The expectations Billy and Camila had of each other were realistic and they were devoted to making their relationship work no matter what struggles they faced.

My favourite relationship was Daisy and Billy, because I’m that basic πŸ˜‚ but oh my god, the sheer angst, tension and chemistry from these two seeped from the page. Every scene they had together had me on the edge of my seat. There’s something about the dynamic and chemistry that’s addictive (which is ironic considering the context of the characters, I wonder if that was intentional?). Again, I loved the messages attached to their relationship and how it was offset against Billy’s relationship with Camila without creating a love triangle.

Concluding thoughts

Daisy Jones and the Six is one of my favourite books. The fact that I’ve read it for the second time in two years is proof of that! Whilst the interview format might be off-putting for some readers due to the disonnect it can create, I feel it worked perfectly for what TJR was trying to achieve. Although the plot was straightforward, the character work and discussions around addiction, mental health and love truly struck gold for me. Complex, flawed and unlikeable characters are a personal love of mine and Daisy and Billy more ticked those boxes for me. This book is worth the read for Daisy and Billy alone.

I’d recommend Daisy Jones and the Six if:

You’re looking for a character-driven- easy-to-read formatted story about the intense rock ‘n roll lifestyle of a 1970s band which is filled with drama and angst and explores dark themes around addiction, self-destruction and love.

This review is based on a re-read. I first read the book in March 2020, if you would like to read my original review you can find it over at Goodreads.

Have you read Daisy Jones and the Six or are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.