The Extraordinary Story of a Man, a Legend and a Marriage
When she was eighteen years old, a girl named Cynthia Powell met a boy named John Lennon and they fell in love. Their ten-year relationship coincided with the start of the Beatles phenomenon---from Liverpool's dockside clubs to the dizzying worldwide fame that followed. And Cynthia Lennon, John's first wife, was an integral part of the swirl of events that are now an indelible part of the history of rock and roll.
In John, Cynthia recalls those times with the loving honesty of an insider, offering new and fascinating insights into the life of John Lennon and the early days of the Beatles. And with the perspective only years can provide she also tells the compelling story of her marriage to a man who was to become a music legend, a cultural hero and a defining figure of the twentieth century.
Cynthia has seldom talked in any detail about her marriage and the painful events that followed John's tragic assassination in 1980. Now she candidly reveals the good and the bad, the loving and the cruel sides of John. She tells of the breakdown of their marriage and the beginning of his relationship with Yoko Ono in more detail than has ever been disclosed before and documents the difficulties estrangement from John---and his subsequent death---brought for herself and their son, Julian.
In John, Cynthia Lennon has created a vivid portrait of the 1960s, the Beatles and the man she never stopped loving.
The time has come when I feel ready to tell the truth about John and me, our years together and the years since his death. There is so much that I have never said, so many incidents I have never spoken of and so many feelings I have never expressed: great love on one hand; pain, torment and humiliation on the other. Only I know what really happened between us, why we stayed together, why we parted and the price I have paid for being John's wife.
I want to tell the real story of the real John---the infuriating, lovable, sometimes cruel, funny, talented and needy man who made such an impact on the world. ---From the Introduction
From the Hardcover edition.
Outline This isn't Cynthia Lennon's first book about her legendary ex-husband. A Twist of Lennon--a slim volume that John tried to suppress on grounds of libel--came out in 1978. But now, 25 years after his death, she finally feels ready to tell the "full and truthful story" of their life together. Why? In his foreword, son Julian writes of their being "dismissed or at best treated as insignificant bit players" in the story of John's life; it's Cynthia's goal, with John, to set the record straight. She does make a case for being more than just "the impressionable young girl who fell for him, then trapped him into marriage," and it's moving to read, in his own words, of John's love for his son. And while there's nothing new in her account of the Fab Four's rise to fame, as the greatest success story of the rock era, it's a legend that bears retelling. But most salient of all are Cynthia's sketches of pain, regret, and intimidation. John was indeed a brilliant, loving man, but he was also "passionately jealous," "verbally cutting," sometimes abusive, and often neglectful. (It is hinted that his behavior may have paralleled that of the woman who raised him, his Aunt Mimi.) Unfortunately, Cynthia's "response to John's provocative and cruel behavior was to stick by him more solidly than ever...[feeling] that if he could trust me and believe that I loved him he might soften."It's not this dysfunction, however, but rather John's use of LSD, on which she blames the emotional "chasm" that led to the failure of their marriage. And though the Lennons' divorce comes relatively late in the book, the pages that follow are by far the saddest, as they chronicle John's increasing distance from and neglect of his former family--especially Julian, who would only see his father three times after he moved to New York in 1971. It's no surprise that Cynthia lays much of the blame for this at the feet of Yoko Ono, who is described as controlling and insensitive, especially in the wake of John's murder. But even though there's a lot of bitterness and resentment in these pages, it's not overwhelming, being offset by Cynthia's fierce love for her son and her continuing affection for her ex-husband. A full picture of John Lennon's life will never exist as long as Ono judges herself unable to write about their time together, but John goes a long way toward improving the situation. --Benjamin Lukoff
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.41" Width: 6.82" Height: 0.79" Weight: 0.96 lbs.
Release Date Apr 23, 2007
Publisher Ma Non Troppo
ISBN 8496222748 ISBN13 9788496222748
Availability 0 units.
More About Cynthia Lennon
Cynthia Lennon was born in Blackpool, England, in 1939. While attending the Liverpool College of Art she met John Lennon, whose rebellious style, caustic wit and passion for rock and roll already marked him as someone different. John and Cynthia married in 1962 and their son, Julian, was born in 1963. The Lennons were divorced in 1969. Cynthia retained custody of Julian, who saw his father sporadically until John was killed in 1980. In the years since, Cynthia has been a restaurateur, a designer and a television personality. She now lives in Spain with her husband, Noel Charles.
More Than Enough for This Casual Beatles Fan Jun 20, 2008
While I love the Beatles and have most of their albums, my interest doesn't extend much beyond the music. I decided to read this book after viewing "The US vs. John Lennon" (which was awfully shoddy as documentaries go). I'm well acquainted with much of the standard Beatles mythology, but the film still piqued my interest as someone who was a small child during the period it covered. I just wanted to know how a simple aspiring rock musician became a revolutionary cultural icon, and a book by a woman who was actually along for the ride seemed to be the best place to start. And, I've decided, to finish.
How any fan, relying on other secondhand information, could feel confident enough to argue against the validity of Cynthia Lennon's personal account of her own life and marriage I can't really understand. She makes very few firm speculations about John Lennon's motives, and sticks pretty much to her own experiences and reactions. I found the book to be entirely reasonable and balanced. There's very little mudslinging, and the mild resentment that comes through is hardly uncommon or surprising. It becomes obvious over the course of the book that she's not exactly skilled at addressing dysfunction in relationships, and not improving at it much with age. Still, I felt some sympathy for her concerning her younger years as I read about them, especially given the picture of a "good wife" and the accompanying virtues and duties that her generation had been inculcated with.
I almost never read biographies, but I felt this was a straightforward account of the rise (and fall, unless you consider becoming an acid head a bump in the road) of John Lennon that satisfied my curiosity around the topic. It seems he was as much an emblem of the glaring hypocrisy of the peace movement as anything else.
Could have been so much better Jun 8, 2008
This is Cynthia Lennon's second book about her ex-husband. The first, A Twist of Lennon, was short, pointless, and boring. This one is longer, is full of details (about herself), and is still boring in parts.
Cynthia describes her youth and love affair with fellow art student John in a monotone voice, with no emotional fervor whatever. Their long separations as John became famous and his growing drug use caused problems, but you don't feel it from her bland writing. It's only when the hated Yoko Ono enters the story that the narrative heats up, and even then it's fairly tepid. Ono is described as a conniving witch who cast a spell over John and made him abandon not only Cynthia, but their young son as well.
There are many candid photos of Cynthia and John but very little about the Beatles, so if you're looking for inside stuff about the Fab Four, keep looking. When Cynthia does write about Paul, George, or Ringo, she speaks in vague terms as if she didn't know them well. We get much more detail about her family and John's family, and the whole Beatles era is described with less passion than one would read in a newspaper account.
I was hoping for insights about John, but the book is really about Cynthia and her life after him. A better editor or a ghost writer might have brought more life to this story; it should have been engrossing, but instead it's just okay.
A surprisingly balanced portrait Jun 2, 2008
It's hard reading this book in the light of several decades of feminism, because you keep wanting to go back in time and make Cynthia stand up to John, for his own good as well as hers. But to be fair, all the advice books in those days would have told her to put his needs first, "Don't make him angry," etc. People who didn't live through it don't realize how little support women dealing with addicted or abusive men got in those days. I do wish she had given him what he deserved on several occasions: A) the divorce: public opinion was against him, he was desperate to get out of the marriage, and she could and should have taken him to the cleaners, if not for her own sake, then for Julian's. B) when he more or less made her sit in steerage as he she brought Julian for a visit. He could bloody well afford a proper ticket, and she should have turned around and taken Julian right back to England. He didn't need a relationship with someone who treated his mother with such blatant disrespect. C) When John ridiculed Julian's laugh. I wish she'd flown over from England and cracked John's head open like a coconut for that one. But to say all this is to wish a Nice English Girl to act as if she had grown up in Brooklyn, and I know it's unreasonable. That said, I think she gives a remarkably believable picture of John, certainly more credible than either the pacifist saint of the Ono publicity machine or the drooling loser in several books written by former servants. You can see the sometimes charming, sometimes snotty art student alternating with the verbally abusive boor and the coward scared of his bollock-busting auntie. You can also see how this nicest of nice girls would be attracted to the neighborhood Bad Boy, and Cynthia is one of a very few people who can claim no possible self-interest in her relationship with John: she had no reason to know that John would ever be more than another college kid with a garage band. I do think she downplays his abusiveness, which was not only described more frankly in some magazine articles during the '70s (Cream, for instance, ran a story subtitled "The Girls They Sandy-Poseyed With"), but by both her and John in Hunter Davies' '60s bio of the Beatles. It's pretty obvious John was violent more than once, and whether the poor woman has simply blocked out her worst memories or has got tired of people criticizing her for being a Co-dependent or Enabler, probably in the same self-righteous tones they'd have used in the '60s to tell her to put His Needs first and don't make him angry, she's pretty much backtracked on what seems to have been a pattern, and now indicates it was an isolated incident. But again, it's unfair to read history backwards--look at old women's magazines, and you'll see how little help women in those situations got. As to whether John ever really loved her--who knows? He very likely said he did. There's no reason to believe she would lie, and plenty of reason to suppose he would, or at least not be entirely forthcoming. He gave an interview in the '70s during which he repeated the information that he and Cynthia had to get married because she was pregnant, but then added something about lots of babies being conceived over a bottle on a Saturday night, etc., giving the impression that Cynthia was some sort of one-night stand, when it's public knowledge she was his steady girlfriend for several years before they got married. I have no doubt that if she brought up marriage during their dating days, he either grunted non-committally or lied outright that yes of course he intended to marry her even if he secretly didn't or wasn't entirely sure. In those days, nice girls didn't go all the way unless the relationship looked serious, and he wasn't going to talk to her as if she were the neighborhood floozy and tell her he hadn't the slightest intention of marrying her, unless he wanted the relationship to end right there. He had a pattern of cowardice that including letting Cynthia find him with Yoko instead of just telling her he wanted a divorce, letting an employee fire discarded mistress May Pang instead of contacting her and telling her he wasn't coming back. When he wasn't avoiding being up-front with people, he was too up-front on the wrong occasions. Though John no doubt thought he was being "open" by admitting he'd married Cynthia because she was pregnant, he doesn't seem to have thought how much fun it would be for Julian to have to fight schoolmates who dissed his mother based on that info, or be called a coward if he wouldn't fight. John knew damn well what kids are like, and he ought to have kept his mouth shut. In Cynthia's favor, let us remember that even if the world never considered her as "artistic" as Yoko Ono, John wrote his best work when he was with her--so she certainly did nothing to hamper his astonishing talent. Now compare that to the work he did after. I don't think his artistic decline is solely attributable to leaving the Beatles; I think he left a woman who humbly acknowledged that if she couldn't always inspire him, she could at least get out of his way, in favor of a woman who made a career out of getting in his way and in everybody else's. And in this book's favor, John actually sounds like a real human being here, both admirable and flawed, rather than the cardboard saint/borderline psychotic crash-dieting superstitious reader of trashy tabloids depicted in other books. So even if you suspect she's being too kind to John, and it's clear she frequently is, look what happens when Beatle-ex-wives openly allege abuse and demand proper settlements and child support: Heather Mills McCartney got trashed by the press for doing the very things that Cynthia tried to avoid. People are only too happy to pronounce judgments on marriages, but we weren't there, and I believe that Cynthia as at least trying to give a fair picture of what it was like for someone who *was* there.
Very touching story May 26, 2008
As with every relationship there are two sides to each story, however, in this book, Cynthia provides a candid portrait of her life with Lennon. At times, it is very sad and difficult to read, her feelings and love for Lennon really came through the book even after so many years. The beginning of the book is extremely well written and touching especially how she met John, and how their relationship started. I read it in one weekend, and would certainly recommend it to every Lennon/Beatles fan. If only John were still alive to write his side of the story.....
A Good Book Despite Omissions May 7, 2008
JOHN is a good read and provides many insights into the life of John Lennon. It becomes obvious that John loved Cynthia a good deal more than most Beatle fans have believed, but at the same time, Cynthia seems to be in denial about much of John's womanizing and other activities. It is not in dispute that all the Beatles visited prostitutes in their early days in Hamburg, and later went through women recklessly during the height of their fame, especially while on tour. Cynthia prefers to deny and/or downplay this.
As Julian Lennon says in the introduction, however, the book contains many tales never told before, and from his mother's unique perspective. This is refreshing since Cynthia has been silent for too long. She lived through the madness, and she deserves to put forth a valid point of view about her husband and what it was like to live through the chaos of the Beatle years and beyond.
She is at her best when she tells of John's relationships with the other Beatles: enjoying Ringo's humor but treating George with a combination of affection and disdain. He was closest with Paul, although this, of course, would change. We see glimpses of Lennon's life within the group from a unique perspective missing from most other accounts.
John's relationhips with May Pang and Yoko Ono are also described, with Julian's thoughts and reactions to his father's behavior always included. Cynthia is quite candid about the turmoil these relationships produced. She is brutally honest about how LSD and Yoko Ono both changed John's already erratic personality and made him an even more distant father and husband. Indeed, the final paragraph of the book validates its writing, for the author looks back over her life with John and decides whether or not it was all worth it.
Despite Cynthia's honesty, John was a far darker character than the man described in these pages--much has been omitted--but Cynthia's task was to render her own viewpoint, which she has done with courageous candor.