John Lennon by Philip Norman
The Life

69%

17 Critic Reviews

He’s particularly perfunctory with the post-Beatle years, evincing respect but no real affinity for Lennon’s political radicalism and avant-garde adventures with Ono. Intelligent and sympathetic, but overlong and unfocused.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

For more than a quarter century, Philip Norman's internationally bestselling Shout! has been unchallenged as the definitive biography of the Beatles. Now, at last, Norman turns his formidable talent to the Beatle for whom belonging to the world's most beloved pop group was never enough. Drawing on previously untapped sources, and with unprecedented access to all the major characters, here is the comprehensive and most revealing portrait of John Lennon that is ever likely to be published.

This masterly biography takes a fresh and penetrating look at every aspect of Lennon's much-chronicled life, including the songs that have turned him, posthumously, into a near-secular saint. In three years of research, Norman has turned up an extraordinary amount of new information about even the best-known episodes of Lennon folklore—his upbringing by his strict Aunt Mimi; his allegedly wasted school and student days; the evolution of his peerless creative partnership with Paul McCartney; his Beatle-busting love affair with a Japanese performance artist; his forays into painting and literature; his experiments with Transcendental Meditation, primal scream therapy, and drugs. The book's numerous key informants and interviewees include Sir Paul McCartney, Sir George Martin, Sean Lennon—whose moving reminiscence reveals his father as never before—and Yoko Ono, who speaks with sometimes shocking candor about the inner workings of her marriage to John.

Honest and unflinching, as John himself would wish, Norman gives us the whole man in all his endless contradictions—tough and cynical, hilariously funny but also naive, vulnerable and insecure—and reveals how the mother who gave him away as a toddler haunted his mind and his music for the rest of his days.

 

About Philip Norman

See more books from this Author
Philip Norman is an award-winning novelist and biographer who, in 1969-70, was assigned to cover from the inside the breakup of Beatles' own business utopia, Apple Corps. He is the author of Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation, Rave On: The Biog-raphy of Buddy Holly, and many other books. He lives in London.
 
Published October 16, 2008 by HarperCollins e-books. 866 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for John Lennon
All: 17 | Positive: 12 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Below average
on Jun 24 2008

He’s particularly perfunctory with the post-Beatle years, evincing respect but no real affinity for Lennon’s political radicalism and avant-garde adventures with Ono. Intelligent and sympathetic, but overlong and unfocused.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Nellie Mckay on Dec 16 2009

Philip Norman relates that a possible alternate title for “In His Own Write” was “Stop One and Buy Me.” It is an apt phrase for his own haunting, mammoth, terrific piece of work.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Michel Faber on Oct 10 2008

Whatever investigative zeal motivated him to interview every obscure Liverpudlian and Hamburger who had the slightest recollection of John, it's long gone by the end. But never mind, some future chronicler will no doubt fill in the holes.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Michel Faber on Oct 11 2008

Indeed, the last half-dozen chapters are thin on insight, and leave much that's been written about the Dakota years unexamined. Whatever investigative zeal motivated him to interview every obscure Liverpudlian and Hamburger who had the slightest recollection of John, it's long gone by the end.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Sean O'Hagan on Oct 04 2008

This is the best life of Lennon to date, however, if only for its brilliant evocation of his childhood in postwar England, that repressed and essentially Victorian society that shaped him and that he, more than any other British pop star, helped tear down.

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Blog Critics

Good
Reviewed by Glen Boyd on Nov 23 2008

With John Lennon: The Life, Philip Norman has attempted to write nothing less than the final, definitive word on the life and times of one of the twentieth century's most iconic figures. As such, this book is an unqualified success in doing precisely that.

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NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Simon Maxwell Apter Philip Norman on Nov 11 2008

Indeed, Norman's reconciliations of man and music comprise the most interesting passages. That blissful place to which Lennon aspires to transport listeners in "Imagine"...

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Jeff Giles on Oct 22 2008

Norman coaxes fresh insights out of both Ono and producer George Martin. And, thanks to a rare interview with Sean Ono Lennon, he turns the postscript into a touching sort of hymn to a lost dad...

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The Telegraph

Below average
Reviewed by Christopher Bray on Oct 23 2008

Shout! took 400 pages to document the first 30 years or so in the lives of four men. The new one takes twice as many pages (without notes or bibliography) to recount one man's 40 years on the planet.

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The Telegraph

Below average
Reviewed by Tim Willis on Oct 23 2008

But this one, like its subject, could have done with a tougher editor. The emblem of Aunt Mimi's Coalport china follows her round like an albatross; Julian is trailed by the epithet 'moon faced'. And sometimes Norman seems too naïve a companion for a streetwise lad like Lennon.

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Christian Science Monitor

Good
Reviewed by Lorne Entress on Nov 07 2010

Despite the searing honesty of Lennon’s songs and his tell-it-like-it-is repartee with the press, much of the man has remained an enigma. Until now. Philip Norman’s “John Lennon, The Life,” is a gift of a book, heartfelt and heart-rending.

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The Bookbag

Excellent
Reviewed by John Van der Kiste on May 01 2009

As befits the man who wrote one of the best biographies of the Beatles, Norman has done his research scrupulously. It's a hefty read, but a very engrossing one, and unlikely to be bettered.

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USA Today

Above average
Reviewed by James Endrst on Oct 23 2008

In the acknowledgments, Norman says he sought to portray Lennon candidly as "both a massive influence on twentieth-century culture and an ultimately adorable human being," and, tabloid headlines aside, he has succeeded.

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Book Buzz

Good
Reviewed by Teresa Cook on Feb 09 2009

I would recommend this book for any Beatles fan or anyone who enjoys biographies. If you aren’t into the 60s and the music of the decade, the book won’t be as interesting for you.

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USA Today

Good
Reviewed by James Endrst on Oct 23 2008

Densely detailed, intricately woven and elegantly told, John Lennon: The Life neither condemns nor condones, nor does it consecrate is subject. It does, however, examine the lingering myths and uncomfortable realities of the life of Lennon — some of them shocking even today.

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Bloomberg

Below average
Reviewed by Mark Beec on Oct 27 2008

The book fails to develop that thought and instead ends abruptly, with only a fleeting mention of the outpouring of grief that followed Lennon's murder. The story of Lennon's legacy remains to be written.

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Rolling Stone

Good
Reviewed by ANTHONY DECURTIS on Oct 22 2008

Devotees will relish the new information, while casual readers will find a familiar story told more truly than ever before.

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