Nyusi's Reviews > John

John by Cynthia Lennon
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's review
Nov 01, 2009

it was ok
Recommended for: Lennon fans who can balance it against other Lennon books
Read in January, 2009 , read count: 1

This proves an interesting read for John Lennon-ophiles. However, Cynthia Lennon comes across as something of a deluded and unreliable narrator who unwittingly communicates to the reader that she does not have the facility to understand the complex man John was, or have any idea what he was really up to.

Cynthia paints a picture of a dim young lass sat at home with the baby, naively thinking her touring husband was being faithful and was as obsessed with her as she was with him. He wasn't, not by a long shot. Cynthia's world view appears equally naive. John, the great experimenter, could not have had gay tendencies, she muses, as he had regular sex with her, his wife, a woman - case closed. John himself admitted to a number of friends (Shotton, Davies) that he'd had a dalliance with Epstein in Spain and his relationship with Sutcliff had homoerotic undertones. There are those who believe that his feelings for Paul also strayed into gay territory. Whatever the truth about Paul, it cannot be denied that John tried everything and it is highly likely that he tried homosexual sex at some stage - that there could be such a blurring of the sexual boundries does not cross Cynthia's naive mind.

There is also some revisionism here - one of the most quoted Cynthia stories used to be the episode on the plane back from India when John, drunk on brandy alexanders, confessed to sleeping with a multitude of other women - leaving Cynthia to arrive in the UK in tears. She was no longer able to ignore the painfully obvious fact that her husband was one of the most promiscuous men on the London scene. Cynthia has told this story on record herself in the past, but in 'John' she omits it completely and rather has John approach her while she was doing the washing up at home, to embrace her and tell her that there had been 'some' other women but she was always the 'only one' for him. This version smacks of wishful thinking on Cynthia's part. Also, in 'John' Cynthia states that she pushed 'Magic Alex' away when he tried to seduce her when she had fled Kenwood having walked in on John and Yoko. Again, Cynthia has admitted in the past that she did indeed sleep with magic alex on that occasion, drunk on wine and shell-shocked after the days events. In 'John' Cynthia revises that story - painting herself as the ever faithful wife. In truth, Cynthia probably did sleep with Alex in the misguided and drunk notion that it would rouse John's old jealousies - in fact, it later transpired that John had encouraged Alex to do the same in order to strengthen his divorce case. In regards to their break up, Cynthia relates a new story of how John's jealousies returned for a moment during one of her last meetings with him. Yoko had left the room to get a glass of water, she says, when John launched into an attack saying Cynthia was no innocent flower and accused her of having an affair with a young American at the Ashram in India - John said George had passed him a note the American left for Cynthia. It is interesting that Yoko is 'out of the room' for this incident, and John and George are no longer around to beg to differ. This is an example of the incidents that just do not ring true, somehow - and conveniently no one can say they did not happen. In fact, John had suspected Cynthia of having an affair with Roberto Bassinini, the son at the hotel where she was staying in Italy when Alex arrived to tell her that John wanted a divorce. In light of the fact that Cynthia later married Roberto, this does not seem wholly improbable. And really, if she didn't, she should have. Still Cynthia is determined to portray herself as the loyal doormat.

Cynthia has form in regard to inventing or leaving out facts that detract from her the ideal relationship she wants to project. In her first book she omitted the fact that Julian was conceived outside wedlock (an important fact as her pregnancy was the reason Lennon proposed). She received a lot of flack for that, and this has been corrected in 'John' as is the fact that she was a virgin when she got together with John (as she claimed in 'A Twist of Lennon' - presumably because John was still alive when she wrote it and he'd believed her to have been a virgin). Other aspects of her revised story still do not ring true,however, and it is hard to trust her. In short, there is more than a hint of the passive aggressive manipulator about Cynthia.

There can be little doubt that she was treated abominably by Lennon, right back to their early days together in Liverpool - when Lennon had girls lined up for sex after he saw Cynthia home each night. One has to ask how complicit Cynthia was in creating this abusive relationship. With shocking submissiveness, Cynthia seemed more than willing to put up with his cheating and selfishness - akin to those biker women who write 'property of (boyfriend's name)' on their jackets. Cynthia never confronted John but rather was a willing doormat - and then she married the guy. One has to ask, why? What was the pay off? Why would a woman stand for such endless disrespect? The answer seems to be unhealthy obsession on her part and perhaps she enjoyed the status of being Lennon's bird. True, Lennon was a mere art student when she met him - but he was a big fish in a small pond. Lennon was the Art College's hard chaw, the rebel, the clown, the rocker and even the Art College's star pupil, Stu Sutcliff gravitated towards his charisma and aura. Dating Lennon gave Cynthia Powell a lot more street cred and status than dating the window cleaner's son from Hoylake whom she had been sleeping with (which in itself was a pretty racy thing to be doing in 1950s Liverpool - futher proof that Cynthia was never quite what she seemed). It is often said that Cynthia fell for John when he was a nobody, but Lennon was never a nobody, Cynthia fell for an art school legend, who went on to become a Liverpool Mersey beat legend and finally a world legend. Lennon was always a catch and Cynthia felt he was out of her league from the beginning.

Cynthia's Liverpool friends made sure she was aware of John's consistent cheating, but she chose to ignore their warnings. She did not want to loose John - which was likely to happen if she confronted him. It seems Cynthia was a slave to her own dysfunctional obsession with Lennon - and their marriage clearly settled into passive agressive manipulation on her part and misogyny, psychological abuse and serial infidelity on his.

When John met Yoko, he finally met someone who wouldn't put up with his shit. Here was a woman who demanded to be treated equally and with respect. With the only insight she demonstrates in the entire book, Cynthia draws parallels between Mimi and Yoko. That John saw aspects of both his mother (eccentricity) and Mimi (strong-will) in Yoko, is easy to believe. Yoko was, in many ways, more typical of the females John had been surrounded with during his formative years. In fact, the book leads one to wonder what John ever saw in the insipid, conventional Cynthia. Perhaps it was a case of opposites attracting, perhaps it was that Cynthia the limpet was a safe bet who would never leave him no matter how cruel and nasty he could be. Whatever it was, it is an area of Lennon's life that deserves further scrutiny. Lennon dated Cynthia for four years before she got pregnant (albeit with a host of affairs on the side), so he clearly had some need for her and liked having her around. This book appears to want to prove that John Lennon was in love with Cynthia Powell, in fact his behaviour towards the first Mrs Lennon rather proves he was not, at least, not really. This book did not enlighten me as to why he ever hooked up with, stayed with and married Cyn - I've yet to read a book that comes up with a satisfactory theory on that one.

Sadly for Cynthia, she never got over her Lennon obsession and it is her greatest tragedy that the man who consumed her as a young woman is now an icon and she has no hope of ever breaking free/forgetting him - indeed she makes her living from books and interviews about him and who can blame her as John Lennon ruined her life in so many other ways, he owes her this financial opportunity, at least.

One also feels sorry for Julian, who wrote the slightly bitter forward, as he did not ask to be born into this dysfunction and his father was undeniably lacking in parental skills.

Still, Julian has had material compensations that he would not have had had John never made it big. If the Beatles had failed and the Lennons had settled into life in Liverpool, sooner or later John would have legged it, leaving Cyn and Julian in a council house to fend for themselves. Julian should count his blessings that this was not the case.

If you bear all the above in mind and read Cynthia's book with that pinch of salt in hand, 'John' is an interesting read.
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Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-4 of 4) </span> <span class="smallText">(4 new)</span>

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Cindy Brown Ash Interesting, insightful review, one of the better ones I've read of this book. I thought John was interesting and liked that it was clearly written BY her, rather than FOR her, even as flawed as it was. I don't know why he would have been attracted to her for as long as he was, although her explanation is as good as any other, I suppose.

Thanks for sharing!

message 2: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee Collins Your review makes me wonder if you are Yoko under a different name. Such a disturbing opinion of Cynthia and Julian.

message 3: by Luna (new)

Luna Asher Finally a reviewer who actually knows what they are saying. Very informative, and I agree, Cynthia has been always bugging me. Her story, from I see in her two books, and her past interviews, are quite different. She changes her information, and bad mouth Yoko at the same time.
Lee Collins, probably those annoying beatle fans who worship Cynthia, believe every negative of Yoko because she hates her so much or may I say work for Cynthia or Julian. She only knows one side but John, who said before, Cynthia isn't an innocent bird as everyone made her out to be.

message 4: by Silvia (new) - added it

Silvia Munguia Although it is undeniable that Cynthia did make mistakes and put up with a lot from John, I think this review is a bit too harsh on her. It's important to consider her background: She was born in Liverpool in1939, a sexist environment. That clearly explains her submission toward Lennon. The writer assumes too many things about Cynthia and about her relationship with John like saying that John was never a nobody. He was not an all star student in art college, as this reviewer claims. He was kicked out of school! And the worst thing is that the reviewer even goes to the point of criticizing Julian. John Lennon is my favorite Beatle, but I don't think that's a good reason to excuse his bad behavior towards his first wive and son. If Cynthia bothers Lennon's fans is because she's honest and courageous enough to reveal who he really was. I'm sorry but Lennon was human and flawed. People have to accept that their idol was not perfect.

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