Wednesday, February 08, 2006

My review of 'John' by Cynthia Lennon

Hot on the heels of reading Bob Spitz’ excellent and massive biography of the Beatles I dove into Cynthia Lennon’s relatively slim memoir of her life with (and without) John Lennon simply titled John. (I ordered them both from the library and, to my surprise, they arrived within a week of each other – I don’t recommend overdosing on this much Beatle lit all at once.) It’s important to note what this book is not – it is not a history of the Beatles. It is, simply, Cynthia’s story of her life with John. This is the second time she has written this. Her first book (I believe it is called A Twist of Lennon, the title a reference to her then new last name of Twist) was, by her own account, hardly the whole truth. She wrote it for the money because John was so stingy with his first wife and their son Julian but because he was still alive and she needed to stay on his good side she couldn't write the truth. This new book is, according to Cynthia, much more honest.

Whether it is or not, I can’t tell – I don’t think anyone who doesn’t know them can really say. It does however show a woman who was treated poorly by one of the most well known men of the last century. It shows that while John was singing “Give Peace A Chance” he was being downright cruel to his son. Cynthia Lennon is clearly not a fan of Yoko Ono and, while she writes in a style that doesn’t come across as sniping or inflammatory, she shows that Ono had her sights set on John from the start and didn’t care if she wrecked a marriage in the process. She also shows Ono as manipulative and disingenuous.

The book itself is not terribly engrossing. Others have done a better job of telling the story of the Beatles. Cynthia’s unique viewpoint is interesting but only for those who have read the other stuff and want to know more. I found Tony Bramwell’s memoir to be much more enjoyable because I’m more a fan of the music John Lennon wrote than I am of the man himself and Bramwell worked for Brian Epstein. Cynthia was never in the recording studio and was seldom at the concerts – she didn’t see John the Beatle, she saw John the man. Unfortunately, his drug use, mood swings, and sharp tongue made him a difficult man to be around.

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