Nina's Reviews > Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon

Imagine This by Julia  Baird
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's review
Apr 01, 2011

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bookshelves: uk-and-ireland
Recommended to Nina by: Lisa Anne Consiglio

Writing this book must have been a very therapeutic experience for Julia. So many traumas and demons to face, write about and cope with.

Even though there is a picture of John Lennon on the cover, the book is actually about the whole Lennon family and especially Julia Baird, the author, herself. Which is not a bad thing. If you want to know about John Lennon, I mean really know, if you want all the Hamburg stories, how he met Yoko and so on, there are plenty of books out there about that. This is the story of the young John Lennon, his relationship with his mother and aunts, and a look at how nasty and cruel those aunts could be. Child-rearing was not their force.

Some thoughts:

*John was a really good brother. He clearly loved his sisters a lot, even though his aunt Mimi didn't want him to see them. The sisters were "illegitimate, not part of the family" but John didn't care. He went to see them anyway, he laughed and joked with them, was a good playfellow and he was never embarrassed by them. Even when the Quarry Men had gigs, he let his sisters sit on the stage. Great brother! (And he was a voracious reader too!:D)

*Those Stanley sisters...(John's aunts). They were really something. Mrs Reid in Jane Eyre has got nothing on them. Aunt Mimi took John away from his mother, even though Julia begged her to give him back and did what she could to get him back. Aunt Mimi said no because Julia was living with Bobby, whom she was not married to. So she took John off to live at "the House of Correction" as Mimi called her own home (how horrible is that!). Oh, and by the way, same Mimi were having an affair with a student living in her house. So it was OK for Mimi to have an affair, but not for Julia to live with the man she loved and had two children with. Go figure...When Julia died her two daughters were sent away to Scotland for a month. Their mother was dead and buried and no one told them. When they got back to Liverpool they stayed with their aunt Harrie. Not knowing that Mummy was dead and where was Daddy? The girls were told nothing and they were given nothing. No information, no love, no nothing. And it's six o'clock now off to bed with you! John bought a house for his sisters - who are not allowed to move in. The aunts will not have it. Aunt Harrie and Uncle Norman moves in instead. The girls? They had to shift for themselves. It was sometimes hard to believe that I was not reading fiction.

*Regarding John and Yoko's bed-ins for peace, his sister says that,
It was unreal, and how on earth did they get away with it? before analyzing her "madcap, introvert-playing-extrovert brother":
At the time I shrank back, but now I can see that there was far more to what John was doing than pure exhibitionism. All his adult life John had been fleeing his demons. The grief and loss he had suffered as a child had been transformed into a desperate craving for love and attention. He wanted to be loved by everyone - the whole world. And he pretty well was! But of course that didn't do the trick, it didn't make the ghosts of the past - his father's loss, Mummy's loss, Mimi's coldness - go away. So he just kept trying harder, and doing more. Perhaps every child who has been abandoned by their parents - through parting or death, struggles with feeling unlovable. I did, Jackie did, and John did. It was almost as though John's over-achieving, 'look at me' stance was an attempt to prove that he really was lovable after all

*I hate Yoko. Really do. When John moved to New York he wanted to stay in touch with his family. But whenever his family called him, it was always Yoko who answered the phone. And guess what? "John is not here at the moment", "John is taking a nap", "He has just gone out, you just missed him". Oh really? Every time? I mean every single effing time his family calls him he is not available? What are the odds!
Later on, after John's death, the house he had bought for his sisters was now Yoko's property. Kind, old Uncle Norman lived there on a pension. Yoko writes him a note telling him that she will sell the house, but he can buy it if he wants. An old man with no money! She practically threw him out! The sisters call Yoko to tell her that John bought the house for them, that it is now a symbol of John's love for them. Yoko wants proof. Several times. The last time Julia is on the phone with Yoko, trying to explain to her how important that house is to the sisters, Yoko answers, "You hardly knew John. You hardly ever met him." They're his sisters! They grew up with John! John LOVED his mother and sisters. John had been on the phone with them, having long conversations with them, while he was living in New York (before Yoko became Ruler of the Phone). He wrote them letters. But of course Yoko knows better. Grrrrrrrr.....! I firmly believe that had John not been shot, he would have left her. There were already signs that he was getting tired of her (again) (who can blame him) and that he wanted to get back to his roots, back to Liverpool, back to his family. Instead, Yoko now acts (still acts) as if she owns John and knows him best. Yoko you....mmmphrg!

*I have to mention the film, Nowhere Boy (go watch it if you haven't already!). The film is based on the first 130 pages of this book, and it is very accurate. Minor changes, of course, but mainly details. Although one thing - one person - was changed quite radically. Bobby, Julia's husband and the father of John's sisters, is very likable in the book. Sweet, funny, sympathetic, a great dad! In the film he is more...stern, not happy that John is in his house. In the book he loved John and tried to get him to live with him and Julia. But I think that they changed his personality in the film so that he were given the role that all the wicked aunts had in real life. Instead of four aunts there was just one Bobby. But he doesn't have a lot of lines and screen time in the film, so I can live with it.

Wow, this review is longer than I thought it would be! Really liked the book (of course Julia Baird is biased, but she did include other people's POV's, and tried to look at things from several angles - she is mainly biased in that she worships her mum and dad) and would recommend it. Even if you are not a Lennon-fan I'd still recommend it. Just because the level of dysfunctionality in the Lennon family is quite...horrific? fascinating?...incredible!

P.S. By "Lennon family" I basically mean his aunts, none of whom were called Lennon, but lets keep things simple, shall we?
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Reading Progress

April 1, 2011 – Shelved
April 11, 2011 – Started Reading
April 17, 2011 – Finished Reading
January 22, 2012 – Shelved as: uk-and-ireland

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Lisa (new)

Lisa  Consiglio-Wolff Yeah! I am glad to see you found the book! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I read it in 1990! I only remember this because I was interning in Washington, DC at the time and it was one of the books I would read on the bus to and from work! ENJOY!!!!

Nina I found it at my local library and borrowed it immediately. I didn't expect my library to have it but I am thrilled that they did! I am about 50 pages in and really enjoying it so far - though the level of dysfunctionality between John's mother and Mimi is astounding!

message 3: by Lisa (new)

Lisa  Consiglio-Wolff I am so glad to hear that! I know what you mean about Mimi and his Mom. Do you get the distinct feeling that John's Mom suffered from depression? I don't think at the time she was properly diagnosed and I thought about it after watching the movie based on the book...when the daughter said...are you having a sad day? If you think about it back in the day doctors couldn't didn't diagnose bipolar disorder.

Anyway, enjoy it! I love the photos as well. He was such a cute little boy!

Nina Hmmm...I think she might have, now that you mention it. Julia (the daughter) mentioned how Julia (the mother) would often sit listening to "My son John, to me you are so wonderful" when John left her, and Bobby would occupy the girls in the kitchen to give Mummy time to sit and "contemplate her own helplessness". I'll keep it in mind as I read on.

And yes, what a cutie! There is a picture of him when he was about two and a half. Adorable isn't the word!

message 5: by Lisa (new)

Lisa  Consiglio-Wolff I am glad you are enjoying it as much as I did.

It is rare these days to find Beatles fans let alone John Lennon fans. I was saddened on the death of his anniversary to read an article where today's teens where heard to say...Who is John Lennon and why is the news media making such a big deal about this guy?

I was so saddened by that! They are so brainwashed by Lady Gaga , Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber they are being denied the great music that got those people to where they are today!

Ok I will jump off my soapbox now!

Talk to you soon! :-)

Nina Really? That is...well, no positive words come to mind:) But hopefully they will grow wiser as they grow older. I know my taste in music now is quite unlike what it was when I was 13-15 years old, so maybe there is still hope for the future. Fingers crossed!:)

I'll let you know what I think of the book as soon as I finish it. 100 pages in now. Julia is still alive, but not for long, I fear...

Yes, talk to you soon:)

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