I was really looking forward to the new book from the author of the fantastic Daisy Jones & the Six. My expectations were too high and the result was disappointment.
The story is set in Malibu from the 1950s – 80s and follows the dysfunctional Riva family: Mick, June, Nina, Jay, Hud and Kit. There are break-ups, alcoholism, fires. Mick is a superstar who is never around, having left the family in pursuit of women and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Nina, the eldest child, who becomes a model, ends up looking after everyone. The story alternates between episodes in the family’s history, and the day of the annual Riva party, the legendary party where celebrities have a wild time.
There were too many characters in this story, especially towards the end when further unimportant ones were introduced for no apparent reason. I also found it weird that Nina suddenly has a best friend turn up towards the end, having had no mention at all in the story until that point. There were too many descriptions of the characters’ outfits. More significantly, I failed to be gripped by any of it, excepting the first and last chapters. I finished the book quickly, not because I loved it, but because I skim-read some of it. The descriptions of surfing and tennis bored me, frankly. I wasn’t sure why the story took place mostly in the 80s, if not to shoehorn in some references for the nostalgia factor, such as Dynasty, shoulder pads, teased hair, etc. It could be transplanted to today and not need to be changed, other than the outfits and a few cultural details. I did like the sense of place; when I read it in February, exclusive California beaches populated by beautiful bronzed people were a welcome change from the freezing weather in the UK.
Thank you to the publisher Hutchinson for the advance copy via NetGalley. The book will be published on 27th May.