Hodder and Stoughton, Copyright 2005, 393 pages.
I’m a fan of Beatles songs, but not really knowledgeable about their personal life. So it’s not surprising that I did not know about Cynthia Lennon, John Lennon’s first wife.
This book is not really a biographical attempt on John Lennon’s life (as the cover and title might suggest). Rather, it is more of a memoir of Cynthia’s life with the famous Beatle.
Cynthia Lennon is quick to admit that the public has long viewed her as “that girl who got pregnant so John Lennon would marry her.” Yet, as she has revealed in this book, that is far from the truth. She has long kept her silence, enduring having to deny that she was Lennon’s wife at the height of Beatlemania (upon the instruction of their road manager), and having to deal with a painful divorce. And so, she says,
” 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 the one hand; pain, torment and humiliation on the other. Only I know what happened between us, why we stayed together, why we parted and the price I paid for having been John’s wife.”
Those looking for an objective and thorough life story of John Lennon will be disappointed. This book was written with a mission: for Cynthia Lennon to air her side of things.
Cynthia Lennon’s writing style is very personal, and it is evident that she loved (and still loves) and cared very deeply for John Lennon. From her narration, one can feel the pain of a woman whose love for a man is almost on the brink of martyrdom. Though her personality is very simple, steady, and un-eccentric (in her own words, she admits she lacks confidence , and she prefers, and endured to be the wallflower while John was in the limelight), it radiates through her writing. It seldom happens to me, as I am aware these kinds of memoir/biographies could be one sided, but I found myself sympathizing with her.
The hurt, pain and confusion that she felt when John started drifting away from her and their son Julian is very raw.
I finished reading this thick book overnight–very engrossing, and filled with tidbits such as how the Beatles’ song, “She Loves You” could be inspired by John’s very first chirstmas card to her, on which he wrote, ” I love you–yes, yes, yes”, and that “Hey, Jude” was written by Paul Mc Cartney for young Julian Lennon (Cynthia and John’s son), when his father left him and his mother for Yoko Ono (it was originally titled, “Hey, Jules” but for better musical compatibility decided “Jude” would be better). And a whole lot more Beatle trivia that are interesting to know.
As the wife scorned, it is obvious that Cynthia Lennon has written Yoko Ono out to be cold, strange, manipulative and cruel. Though there may be some truth to it, I would love to read Ms. Ono’s take on things for a better rounded view.
The book left me feeling quite sad, but at the same time glad to see an honest and refreshing view on her overall life with John Lennon:
“I never stopped loving John, but the cost of that love had been enormous. Someone asked me recently whether, if I’d known in the beginning what lay ahead, I would have gone through with it. I had to say no. Of course I could never regret having my wonderful son. But the truth is that if i’d known as a teenager what falling for John Lennon would lead to, I would have turned right round then and walked away.”
John and Cynthia Lennon. Happier times.
Cynthia Lennon with son Julian.