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John Paperback – 10 Apr 2006
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'fascinating...all Beatles fans will be interested in the book, the best in recent years'. (The Sunday Times)
'an engaging memoir... along the way, it offers a fascinating glimpse into an altogether
more innocent age, before star-makers and svengalis began colluding with marketing
men and TV execs ...'
'vivid and engaging... refreshingly free of bitterness.' (Mail on Sunday)
'A fascinating first-hand account of one of the most bizarre phenomena of the 20th century.' (Sunday Telegraph)
'Fascinating stuff' (Evening Standard)
'loving but candid... vividly captures the time and place and the characters.' (Washington Post)
'A fascinating read that offers an insight into a brilliant and complex man.' (The Sun)
The international bestselling memoir of the most idolised Beatle, John Lennon - by his first wife Cynthia.See all Product description
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I am sure she and Julian could never reproduce the millionaire lifestyle in stockbroker Surrey that was forfeited when Yoko Ono came along but not having "any money and just scraping by" - well, thats like millions of other kids growing up in the 70's and 80's and they still had a lot more than we did growing up so , not having anything , is only relative in context to what Cynthia had got used to as the wife of a Beatle .
Saddest of all for me, particularly as John himself had been robbed of both of his parents at a very young age , was his almost disregard of son Julian after John met Yoko Ono and the fact that John left nothing at all in his will for Julian . I think this was eventually sorted out the Julian claimed from John's estate but it doesn't replace the loss of John as a father .
Yoko Ono wouldn't be my first choice of stepmother - and I feel sure she set out to trap and capture John Lennon , not caring who she destroyed in the process - I find her controlling and unlikeable but I can see how John needed a Mimi replacement to manage his fragile and rapidly unravelling life .
I like to think that had John lived , he would have found out that he didn't really need her .
An unfair picture of Yoko Ono is also given. Even if Ono had planned to lure John away from her, John was an adult and it was his choice. It is predictable that the jilted wife would paint such an unflattering portrait of the woman who married her ex-husband, but it borders on petty bitterness, and the delight she takes in mocking her (or hearing others mock her) is quite tasteless. The book obviously intends to generate sympathy for her, but as I read this I got the impression that she felt entitled to being a much bigger part of John's after the divorce, and not just because of their son.
Cynthia mentions John was not loving towards her near the divorce, but maybe there was a reason for that? Cynthia never understood John's reasons for doing anything and she can't ever explain, and this is why I never felt any sympathy for her because it is all history without detail. She recounts events, and her feelings but never tries to tell people what John's given reasons were for things. She tells readers that John confessed to affairs, but never reveals why John felt he needed to be unfaithful to her. He must have given her reasons because she must have asked at the time. After the divorce, Cynthia mentions several times how a lot of people were sympathetic to her, and how some of the people in the Beatles' inner circle also blamed Ono, as if to show that everyone thought she had been wronged and agreed with her moral position after the divorce.
This whole book seems to be about Cynthia's bitterness about her being absent from John's later life, and how the divorce made it impossible for her to benefit from John's legacy, which, she seems to think she has a right. As an ex-wife, legally she is not a beneficiary or spokesperson for John, and she feels so bitter about being excluded from his life and legacy following the divorce. However, it stands to reason that she couldn't have expected John to have included her in his life to any great extent after that. Most divorced people move on, but for her it was humiliating, and it seems while John was alive she still felt she should be as important as she was to him while they were married . In Hunter Davies' collection of John Lennon's letters, John implied that Cynthia had been trying to stop Julian contacting her. In one letter, he even alleged that during his brief separation from Yoko Ono, Cynthia asked John to remarry her and have another child with her when she visited him with Julian. John also said that Cynthia had tried to stop Julian from seeing her when he got back together with Ono. Since there is no proof of anything from either side, it is hard to accept any account of their history as the truth. A lot of people have judged John on this account alone, having seen the various reviews of this book, but this is a one-sided story. John would have provided his reasons but he did not get a chance. Had he lived, I am sure he would have addressed the criticisms. This book can never be the last word on Cynthia and John's marriage and relationship. All those people who say their opinion of John has been lowered by reading this have clearly accepted Cynthia's story and her reasoning of John's behaviour as the truth, but things may not have been the way she has presented, but John outgrew her, and there is no reason he should have stayed with her if he was unhappy, which he clearly was. When he married her, he was a teenager and like most people of his age, looks were more important than anything else. He changed over time, and and he realised she wasn't the one for him. Many Bealtes books recount how John mainly married Cynthia because she got pregnant because that was what many people did in that period, but as he grew up, he wanted someone who challenged him intellectually, someone who he could share his madness with, and Cynthia doesn't seem to get that.
As for Julian, it is hardly surprising that his life with John was disrupted after the marriage. When one parent gets custody of a child, things are never the same, and obviously it does severely affect the relationship. Maybe Julian did deserve to have more time with his father, but divorce is hard on all children who see their parent's split up, so why did Cynthia expect it to be plain sailing?
Life is unfair and cruel, and bad things could happen to anyone. It seems Cynthia felt that John should have stayed with her for the sake of Julian but no one should stay in a happy marriage. Things were far from perfect even when John and Cynthia were married because John hardly had time for Julian even then. In later life John admitted his faults as a father and he said that Sena was a planned child - he was prepared for fatherhood and the responsibility that came with it. With Julian, he was not prepared, and being so busy with Beatles stuff, there was no hope for him to have had time for him. Obviously that meant they were never close, and Julian always saw him as an outsider too for this reason, and Cynthia doesn't touch upon that.
I feel this book is a huge whinge-fest, and character assassination of a talented but flawed man who was showing a lot of positive change in the years before he was murdered. Just because Cynthia was once his wife doesn't mean people have to accept this account as being a true reflection of John because it was written by someone who was rejected by him.
Cynthia passed away recently, and a lot of people feel she had a tragic life, which is far from true. She exploited the Lennon name as much as was legally possible, and was always bitter about not being able gain more from her association with John. She accepted the dovoc settlement and the financial arrangements made for Julian before John died. She was well-spoken and articulate, and had a wholesome image but look into her history, especially after the divorce and also after John's death, she made a lot of effort to make claims to John's legacy and was always complaining. She criticises Yoko Ono a lot in this book, but she exploited John's name and memory for money too, and there was nothing inherently better about her.
In all, I don't recommend this book.
I always thought of Cynthia as a beautiful and kind woman, which she clearly was. I also find it fascinating that she holds no bitterness in this book and I truly believe she loved John until the day she died. I wish John had had more respect for her and Julian but suspect his own tough childhood made this almost impossible for him to do. Nonetheless, this book also emphasises the charisma and great talent John and the Beatles had and how wonderful it was to be a part of that and the sixties.
I do hope Cynthia is at peace now and has found the love she truly deserved.
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