Lane Willson's Reviews > John

John by Cynthia Lennon
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Oct 31, 11

bookshelves: biography
Read from October 18 to 31, 2011

Let’s get the sad, disgusting part out of the way first. John Lennon was, like so many who went before him and those who will surely follow, simply a hypocrite. The 20th century’s secular deity whose mantra was “All you need is Love” abandoned his own son, Julian - his six year old son. Scoot down Jim Baker, and make room for one more. Now that the ugliness is out of the way, let’s move on.

John, Cynthia Lennon’s account of her relationship and marriage to John Lennon, was a quick and easy read. The forward is by Julian which seems to lend it some credibility straight away. Also the fact that it was written 25 years after John’s death, allowing much of the hype to melt away, adds strength to the idea that Cynthia simply wants her side of the story to be heard. I would imagine that had money been the primary motive, putting her story in print in the early 1980’s would have been much more lucrative.

I’ve read a great number of books about the Beatles or its individual members over the years, and despite her seat in the eye of the storm, I don’t think Cynthia adds anything truly new to the record. However, I think her voice offers flesh and blood and feeling to those who, like herself, woke up one morning to find their seat next to John had taken center stage in the eye of the hurricane that was Beatle mania. Even John’s aunt Mimi, often a very unlikeable woman, gains some sympathy in the crushing fame that followed in the wake of the lads from Liverpool. Of course the most tragic figure in the tale is John and Cynthia’s son, Julian.

Only six when his parents divorced, and still very young when his father was murdered, the tragedy is compounded by the fact that not only did a boy lose his father, John turned into the man he hated above all others, his own father. John’s slow but unstoppable drifting into his own father’s footsteps is at times harder to grasp than Julian’s pain at the repeated loss of his father.

Cynthia does a few things in the book that I really like. The vast majority of the book deals with the good times she and John shared, and the love they had for one another. She makes this quite real. While there is nothing flattering about Yoko in Cynthia’s account, she does not make Yoko the devil. At times she makes John’s relationship with Yoko seem almost like a byproduct of his drug use rather than love. While that may be too dismissive of the love John and Yoko clearly felt, Cynthia lays the responsibility for this tragedy squarely at the feet of its author – John.

Life rarely gives us “happy ever after”, and I take comfort that Cynthia allows us “at least we ended up OK”. In my mind this in line with another spiritual maxim sung about by the fab four “and in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make”.
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