Pulling back the many hidden layers of John Lennon's life, Lesley-Ann Jones closely tracks the events and personality traits that led to the rock star living in self-imposed exile in New York — where he was shot dead outside his apartment on that fateful autumn day forty years ago.
Jones frames her book loosely around the women in John’s life, the 'formidable females' (almost all of them older) who 'cherished or neglected, repaired or damaged, fortified or weakened him.' With sources that range from former collaborators, rock critics, and kibitzing psychiatrists to Cynthia Lennon (who once asked Jones to collaborate on a memoir, which was later abandoned), Jones portrays a wounded artist who responded to these tragedies with a mix of insecurity and ego ... Jones, on balance, is sympathetic. 'She was the alpha female he needed, the partner he felt he deserved,' she writes. Before Ono, Lennon could be snarky and supercilious with people he felt insecure around. After he met Ono, 'his cynicism began to melt away. He was at long last able to evolve. He would henceforth look to her for guidance and approval in most things, as a child looks to his mother.'
If you can get past the author’s self-regard — and at least one reader nearly could not — her book includes a few nice insights. Lennon’s celebrated 'house husband' period of the late 1970s, for instance, in which he doted on Sean, his son with Yoko Ono, was to Jones’ mind a belated balm for his own troubled childhood: the absent dad, the wayward mother who died too young.
In time for the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, music journalist and author Jones delves into the psyche of the former Beatle by investigating his connections to the most important people in his life ... Throughout, the author depicts her complex subject as an insecure, charismatic, cruel, self-absorbed, sex-crazed, creative genius who found a modicum of peace during his final years ... Though conducting many interviews, Jones offers few new insights; relies on generalizations, unfounded suppositions, and speculation; and writes in a cliché-ridden, offhand style.