Cynthia Lennon published her second memoir, John, in 2005. I had read her first, from 1978, the doubly punny A Twist of Lennon [1], in a 1981 reprint. John is a lengthier book in that it tells Cynthia’s story after the point when A Twist of Lennon ends. The first memoir, even though it was published in 1978, ends when Yoko Ono comes onto the scene in 1968. Therefore it does not describe the Lennons’ divorce in 1969. John does not repeat the first memoir by going into as much detail about Cynthia’s meeting, dating, and marrying John as is revealed in A Twist of Lennon. That part of Cynthia’s life is certainly covered in John, but thankfully was not a repeat of what she had already written.

Beatles fans like myself appreciate the candour from a member of the Beatles’ inner circle. Her tales of hiding in laundry carts in order to escape from crazed fans will have you laughing, but will also scare you too, as you realize what peril it was for her and John simply to go outside. Fans would camp outside her home and one day when John was out, she was awakened by no less than a crowd of twenty teenagers who had managed to find their way inside her home. This fishbowl existence would terrify me, and Cynthia shares her feelings openly and in so doing reveals contradictions she knows she still has in regards to her Beatle ex-husband. 

She knew that John had been having affairs while on the road, yet accepted them as part of being married to the biggest rock star in the world. She never confronted John about his infidelity, however it was John who revealed to her that he had been unfaithful. When Cynthia hears John’s confession, she accepts it with a loving “I know, it’s okay.” and leaves it at that. Neither John nor Cynthia liked confrontation, and while John would get up and drop everything to avoid conflict, Cynthia would stay where she is and accept the situation while saying nothing. Cynthia herself does write that she wondered what her relationship with John might have been like if only she had been more open with her feelings instead of keeping them bottled up. 

Cynthia and John’s son, Julian, soon becomes Cynthia’s main focus and she turns to him for support when John is often on tour. In the summer before John died, he publically acknowledged that he wasn’t there for Julian while he was growing up, and regretted it. Cynthia brings it up time and time again how much Julian felt deprived by having no father figure, and there were gaps of as many as three years when father and son never spoke. 

There are no minced words when Cynthia talks about Yoko Ono. She believes Yoko targeted John for his money the moment they met. Yoko became the mother figure John never had. John was raised by his strict Aunt Mimi, who was his own mother’s oldest sister. Cynthia believes that John fell for the Yoko-as-Mimi and was easily swayed by this mysterious artistic older woman who called all the shots. Cynthia believes that Yoko wanted John to sever contact with anyone in his life from the time before they met. Thus Cynthia blames Yoko for John’s negligence of Julian. There is genuine sympathy in her heart for Yoko, however, when Cynthia describes the pain Yoko felt when she miscarried at six months, and when Yoko had to face the facts that her daughter (from an earlier marriage) was likely never going to see her again.  

Cynthia was not awarded much in her divorce settlement, even though she had lawyers advising her to go after 50% of what John was worth. She did not want to battle it out and was quite happy to settle for (what she would soon see as) a minuscule sum out of court. Thus Cynthia worked in numerous jobs, scraping to get by, and even had to sell some of John’s mementos to make ends meet. 

Throughout the book she confesses that she will always love John and never stopped loving him, in spite of his infidelities and his absence as a father. However at the very end she asks herself if she would still have gone out with him if she knew in advance what pain he would cause her. Cynthia answers that question:

“But the truth is that if I’d known as a teenager what falling for John Lennon would lead to, I would have turned round right then and walked away.”

I had to reread that part a couple times. I would have thought a question like that would have been rhetorical.

In spite of having a credited researcher in the acknowledgements. John still has many errors which stick out glaringly. For example, “though” is used for “through” on two occasions, and there are some punctuation mistakes, like ending a sentence with a comma instead of a period. Other errors are factual, which any chart historian (or any general Beatles fan) can verify. Cynthia reports that the first Beatles album released in the US was Please Please Me. This was the group’s first UK album which was not released in the US until over twenty years later. The Beatles also held down the top five singles on the Billboard chart on 4 April 1964, not six, as she reports. I shook my head in disbelief when I read:

“We were booked into a hotel called Dromoland Castle and it seemed perfect–miles from anywhere and utterly luxurious. President Kennedy had just checked out of our suite…” 

Cynthia and John stayed at the Dromoland Castle in late March of 1964. President Kennedy was assassinated in late November 1963: he did not “just check out” of the hotel. 

[1] Cynthia Lennon is her nom de plume, however she had adopted the surname of her third husband, John Twist, when she published this memoir.

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