If I had the energy to rewind to all of the blog posts from December 2020 titled ‘Most anticipated books of 2021’, I suspect that Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid would feature heavily. Because even if Daisy Jones & The Six wasn’t your usual genre, there was something appealing about it – the nostalgia, the music alive on the page, the glamour and grunge of the industry.
Reid has used the same ingredients for her latest novel, Malibu Rising, but unfortunately the result lacks the magic of Daisy. I’m not sure why because the ‘ingredients’ are solid – professional surfers, Malibu beach, set in the eighties – but these scene-setters were diluted with too many superfluous characters, and a house party that is described in laborious detail (a stark contrast to the first half of the book which covers decades of the family’s history).
The eighties references read like an afterthought, and were almost exclusively about what people were wearing, or what they were listening to on the radio. In fact, they were so clumsy, I wondered how old Reid was – did she have to research the eighties because she wasn’t familiar with them? (she was born in 1983, so yeah, she would have had to do her research).
The best part of this book was the story of Mick and June, and their ill-fated relationship –
And on and on it went. Small boundaries broken, snapped like tint twigs, so many that June barely noticed he was coming for the whole tree.
Mick and June were believable. Their children, described through the eyes of June, were believable. When the children first surf, June observes –
…the children had found a previously undiscovered part of themselves that day. She knew that childhood is made up of days magnificent and mundane. And this had been a magnificent day for all of them.
‘Magnificent and mundane’ is a lovely description of time passing for children.
While Malibu beach was idyllic, home life for the family was not. Mick left, money was tight, and June drank to obliteration each night. The children soon learned to recognise alcoholism as ‘…a disease with many faces, and some of them look beautiful.’ Their devotion to their mother is what binds and motivates them.
I’m sure many readers will enjoy this book, especially if the expectation is that it will be a light beach read. I found it uneven and ultimately I wanted more of the first half (the family life) and less of the second half (the party).
I received my copy of Malibu Rising from the publisher, Random House UK, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
June drank Screwdrivers in the morning like other people drank orange juice. She drank Cape Codders at lunch in the break room. She had Sea Breezes with dinner, she and the kids sitting around the table eating meatloaf or a roast chicken.