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A Review of the book John Lennon The Life

Updated on February 16, 2013

Quite an interesting story

Some biographies can be dry and not very interesting, while some can captivate you and have you quickly turning the page to see what is going to happen next. The book John Lennon The Life, by Philip Norman, is a book that will have you turning those pages not out of boredom, but out of anticipation.

John’s Family

The book starts with a look at some of John Lennon’s ancestors, but it is told in such a way that we aren’t trying to skip those chapters. It seems that music seemed to be in his ancestry with both his parents and even his grandfather possessing musical abilities.

John Lennon’s mother Julia seemed to have larger than life personality with beauty to match. We learn how she came to know John’s father Alf. They shared laughs and an instant attraction to each other. The marriage was a bit rocky because Alf was a Merchant Sailor and was away from Julia and John for long stretches of time. Julia got tired of being alone and sought out company. John’s mother had a lot of drama in her life and reading about her you feel like you are reading a soap opera. John’s father was quite a character too and we see the reason why he was constantly going from job to job. In turn this helps us to see how John became the person he grew up to be.

John’s childhood

In some biographies the early years of a person’s life is sometimes glossed over, but not in this book. Philip Norman spends quite a bit of time in John’s childhood and we see that he was a sensitive child who had to deal with many emotional trials in his younger years. The first big event in his life was in being given the choice of choosing to be with his Mother or with his father. It was a heart breaking decision for anyone to have to make.

The book also covers his complex relationship with his Aunt Mimi. This woman was the stabilizing force in his formative years and gave him security he would never have had if he had stayed with his mother or father. He also found stability and love with his Uncle George (Mimi’s husband). Mimi didn’t trust the movie theaters, but George knew John loved the movies so he would sneak John out of the house and let him go to the cinema. He also gave John sweets when in those days after the war there were rations on such things.

John loved to be creative even in his early years and would draw and paint for hours. He was very nearsighted and refused to wear the government issued eyeglasses that were prescribed to him. This led to trouble in school and in his travels around the city because he couldn’t see very well. Later he took to wearing the style of glasses he despised in his youth

John’s early influences

In John Lennon the life we learn of the early friendships of John and how in turn it led to the meeting of Paul McCartney and then of George Harrison. A love of music at an early age led them down a road to future of success as The Beatles. John’s mom Julia played the banjo, piano and accordion and she taught John his first chords. John became fascinated with the harmonica at age 8. When he was older he tinkered on the piano but Mimi refused to buy one in her house. Mimi later bought him a guitar after he began to love the music of Elvis Presley.

John took after his aunt with a love of reading. He would spend hours in his room reading “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through The Looking Glass” seeing this you can see how it gave him the inspiration to write songs like “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, and “For The Benefit of Mr. Kite”.

The Beatle Years

The book also covers the Beatles rise to superstardom with the help of their manager Brian Epstein and well as the help of their producer George Martin. It is funny how life puts you in the path of certain people and how it leads to future events. This part of the book takes you from the beginnings of their careers playing in seedy dives and working their way up to Hamburg and then to the United States. The band at this time was truly like brothers and it very interesting to read all about their adventures leading to their success.

John and his love life

The book tells of John and his love life and his insecurities and jealousies when he became involved with anyone serious. It is easy to see why he acted like that because he whenever he truly loved someone they always seemed to be taken away from him.

The book takes us to his marriage with Cynthia as well as other ladies that weren’t as serious. We also learn certain things about John that maybe were best left unknown such as a certain talent he had and his fantasy about his own mother.

John Lennon the Life tells the reader of how he met Yoko and how she changed his life forever. Painted as the bad guy in the breakup of the Beatles we learn more about this woman and her past. She didn’t have an easy time of things and the reader comes away from the book understanding her a little more and seeing that John was ready to get out of group because he had outgrown it.

John after the Beatles

John Lennon after the Beatles is an interesting read too. We see what John was up to after the split and how it affected not only him but Paul McCartney too. We learn what made John want to move to New York and the time of separation between him and Yoko. We also learn how much he wanted to be a father and how overjoyed he was to have a son once again. Perhaps he realized how he wronged his first son Julian by not being there for him in his formative years he later tried to repair that by spending more time with him as he entered his teenage years.

The final chapters

It is hard to reach the final chapters because everyone knows what is going to happen. It is especially hard to read because before he died John was really excited about his future not only with his reconciliation with Yoko, but with watching his son grow up and in renewing his musical career. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened had John survived that time. What songs would he have written, would there have been a Beatle’s reunion? A mad man took away a life that held an optimism for tomorrow and that is the only part of the book that is really sad to read.

The book should be read because the reader learns all the little quirks of John’s personality, his likes and dislikes, and we learn just how complicated he really was. John Lennon a Life is a must read for any true fan of either The Beatles or of John Lennon. It is very informative and very interesting.


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    • cfjots profile image

      cfjots 5 years ago from Conway, SC

      Thanks for sharing your article that let's the reader see things about the Beatles that they didn't really know. I found the article very interesting.

    • profile image

      rmcmillen 5 years ago

      books, documentaries, first-hand accounts... and still so many misconceptions about the Fab Four..... which is why I wrote .... take a lookie-loo