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Review: Another view of John Lennon

By L.D. Meagher
CNN

cover.john.jpg

'John'

  • By Cynthia Lennon
  • Crown
  • Memoir
  • 320 pages
  • YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS

    John Lennon

    (CNN) -- John Lennon would have turned 65 years old Sunday. The occasion -- and the impending 25th anniversary of his death on December 8 -- has unleashed a flood of books about his life and his music.

    One of the most revealing is a memoir from Lennon's first wife, Cynthia. (Stay tuned for a collection of memories put together by his widow, Yoko Ono, which is due in December. Or, perhaps, don't.)

    "John" is the second memoir Cynthia Lennon has penned about their life together. The first -- published less than a year before Lennon's death -- was a lightweight and non-judgmental reminiscence (perhaps because her ex threatened legal action against it). A quarter-century later, the first Mrs. Lennon digs much more deeply.

    Cyn -- as she was known in Liverpool -- rejects the notion she was a minor character in Lennon's life. Much of her book is devoted to their early romance -- they met as teenaged art students -- and the earliest days of the band that would become the Beatles. They were young and deeply in love, she insists. And so they remained, through the hastily arranged wedding and the birth of their son, clinging to each other as Beatlemania erupted around them.

    She tells some good stories of those days -- a visit to Hamburg, the struggles to make ends meet, the sudden explosion of success -- and illuminates John's rather unusual family and upbringing.

    The Lennon that emerges is a complex mixture of affection, need, rage and inspiration. The author recounts their ups and downs with apparent honesty.

    It all changed, as she sees it, when Yoko Ono entered the picture. First dismissed by Lennon as a "crackpot," it soon became clear his real feelings were quite different.

    Cyn learned the truth the hard way, and watched in confusion as John and Yoko embarked on their public life of art and activism.

    "I know to many people John's behavior during that period seemed brave, honest and innovative," she writes, "but as the mother of his young son, it was hard to see it like that. Along with many people who loved John -- his family and friends -- I looked on in dismay as his actions appeared increasingly self-obsessed and he spared little thought for the feelings of those who had once been closest to him. He seemed so intense and took himself deadly seriously too, which wasn't the John I had known ..."

    Though hardly a tell-all, "John" is, if you will, a "tell-more." Cynthia Lennon reveals her true feelings about John -- then and now -- and Yoko -- then and now. The book is highly readable and, in its own way, a loving tribute.

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