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John Lennon: The Life Paperback – 28 May 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (28 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000719742X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007197422
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 4.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 165,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philip Norman was born in London and brought up on the Isle of Wight. He joined the Sunday Times at the age of twenty-two, soon gaining a reputation as Atticus columnist and for his profiles of figures as diverse as Elizabeth Taylor, P. G. Wodehouse, Little Richard and Colonel Gaddafi. In 1981 he published SHOUT!, a ground-breaking biography of the Beatles that was a bestseller in both Britain and the US. He has also written the definitive lives of Sir Elton John and Buddy Holly.
His journalism has been published in three collections, THE ROAD GOES ON FOREVER, TILT THE HOURGLASS AND BEGIN AGAIN, and THE AGE OF PARODY. He is married with a daughter and lives in London.

Product Description


‘Reading this book brings the John Lennon I knew vividly back to life.’ Bill Harry, founder of Mersey Beat

‘This is the best Lennon book so far’ The Word

‘Norman has written about Lennon twice before but he has uncovered much new material in his research for this impressive and highly readable book… It is greatly to Norman's credit as a biographer that he does justice to all of (Lennon's legacy) in a book whose 854 pages simply fly by.’ Sunday Times Culture

‘Can there be more to find out (about Lennon)? And, can Philip Norman, the author of the new 300,000 word John Lennon: The Life, be serious when he tells The Word magazine, "Lennon deserves a real biography, as if he were John Keats or Mahatma Ghandi. Not a pop person but a major towering presence in his century?"  The answer to both questions is empahatically yes…And yes, Norman has unearthed some startling things.’ The Independent

'Although more than 800 pages long, this book is nicely paced, well researched and will not disappoint.'
Glasgow Evening Times

‘Reading this book brings the John Lennon I knew vividly back to life.’
Bill Harry, founder of Mersey Beat

'This is the first serious Lennon biography for 20 years and unlike Albert Goldman's bilious effort in the 80s, Norman's style is trustworthy, contextual, and plainly told, yet with enough splashes of historical colour…'
The Times

‘A well-written book and almost everything you could want to know [about Lennon] is in there.'
Oxford Times

The New Statesman called the book 'magnetic'.

'Philip Norman's style is compelling', Irish Times

'Norman's mesmerising biography'. Irish Examiner

‘Meticulously researched, compulsively readable book.’
Sunday Times Culture magazine

‘The Rock biography of the Year.’

‘The best all-round Lennon biography.’
Sunday Herald Magazine


[Norman] 'has uncovered much new material in his research for this impressive and highly readable book' - Robert Sandall --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
There seems to be renewed interest in John Lennon at the moment. Two exhibitions have recently opened: one in New York organised by his widow Yoko Ono and one in Liverpool curated by his first wife Cynthia and son Julian; Cynthia also published a second memoir, John, in 2005; three not uncontroversial films have been made on his killing (Chapter 27, The Murder of John Lennon and The Killing of John Lennon) and a biopic of his early years is in the pipeline (directed by Sam Taylor-Wood). The relatively recent deaths of George Harrison (2001), long-term roadie Neil Aspinall (2008) and erstwhile Beatles lawyer Allen Klein (2009) have surely also brought Lennon back into the headlines. Reflecting this interest and also expressing it is Philip Norman's 800+-page biography John Lennon: The Life, which has arrived in good time for the 30th anniversary of Lennon's death next year.

So many books have been written on John Lennon (even rockstars have named children after him). Why should we keep on reading them? And the answer is, first and foremost, because he was a fascinating songwriter and singer. He also undoubtedly had a complex personality, seemingly ricocheting between headline-making arrogance and painful self-doubt, aggression and tenderness, tomfoolery and pleas for peace, neglect of his first son followed by becoming a doting househusband for the second, and seamlessly switching from marriage to a quintessentially conservative Liverpudlian wife in suburban England to a Japanese-American performance artist seven years his senior in downtown New York.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By conjunction on 14 Oct. 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not working just now and like one of the other reviewers I read it in three days. I really enjoyed it. I was 12 when Love Me Do came out and my sister and I bought all their albums on the day of release for several years.

I was also around in London in the late sixties so enjoyed reading the detail about that period.

There are several things about this book which really impressed me however. One is the carefully built up and three dimensional portrait of Lennon's childhood, particularly the portraits of his parents and aunt Mimi. They really come alive for me. So does the picture of Lennon as a 'Just William' character. Clearly for almost his whole life he was a relentless rebel, a continual thorn in the flesh to anyone in authority. I found the stuff about his interest in art and writing really interesting too, going back to his art school days and earlier.

The stuff on Hamburg is great too - that was a hard school, and made them as a band. There is of course a lot of detail on all the Beatles and the changing personnel and friendships. Many readers may be more familiar with this than I as I had never read a book about the Beatles before, but it is really good to get the lowdown on Stu Sutcliffe for example.

The nature of the Lennon McCartney relationship, the friendship with Jagger all add to the mix.

I was less interested in the Yoko Ono years as her work doesn't interest me but the book does bring out how Lennon's personality found his life in New York a new vehicle to express himself in a more explicitly radical way.

The section on the breakup with the Beatles seems to have as much to do with Paul's relationship with Linda as with John's with Yoko but armed with this support they both adopted different financial gurus and that was what really did it.

The is a comprehensive and disciplined book. It doesn't answer every question but for me really brought those years back.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 Jan. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Most beloved public figures have many facets -- some of them nasty, some of them pleasant and admirable. Most biographies either focus on the good, or the bad.

But fortunately, Philip Norman is making a valiant effort to show, if not all of John Lennon's facets, then as many of them as possible. Having explored the Beatles and their impact on a generation, Norman narrows his focus down to "John Lennon: The Life" -- and he does a superb job unearthing the many details, relationships and differing faces of this much-lamented rock star. We'll never get a John Lennon autobiography, but Norman does a pretty good job of getting inside his shaggy head.

John Lennon was born into an incredibly stormy marriage (which broke up soon after) and raised by his loving, strict Aunt Mimi, though he was something of a hellraising trickster as a child. The one blot: the tragic, shocking death of his mother Julia.

Of course, everyone knows what happened later -- after a brief stint at art school, Lennon became part of a band with an ever-shifting name, and started working on pop songs alongside Paul McCartney. Though briefly devastated by the death of a bandmate, Lennon quickly rose to fame and fortune when the renamed Beatles became not just a hit band, but a new way of life for the youth of Britain, and then the entire world. Hit album after hit album poured from the Beatles, along with the usual rock-star intake of drugs, sex and occasional PR disasters.

But Lennon's interests began to stray in more spiritual directions, and as his marriage to the sweet-natured Cynthia fell apart, he met and fell in love with eccentric Japanese artist Yoko Ono.
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