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The song "Imagine" by John Lennon is a byproduct of years of participating in and observing conflict about most meaningless issues, different perspectives and selfishness. But imagine is just what John Lennon spent his entire life doing with the most tenacious and passionate vision and "out of the box" thinking anyone else could ever dream. Jude Southerland Kessler takes a reader through the minute events and factors that contributed into forming this iconic, well-loved and really quite misunderstood musical genius!
Shoulda Been There is the first of a series of novels written by Kessler to chronicle the little-known but fascinating facts about John Lennon's life. This first edition spans the years of 1940 to 1965, well before the Beatles landed to mesmerize America and change the world of music forever. While it's impossible to cover the 795 pages within this review, this reviewer was deeply moved by John's story. Raised by an Aunt Mimi and Uncle George who tried to instill a sense of order and responsibility in John's chaotic spirit, John was just as much a byproduct of his free-spirited mother, Julia, who had a similar passion for music, dance and performance. Indeed she was the inspiration behind John picking up a guitar and at first playing in a "skiffle" band, later to become known as The Quarrymen.
But before his musical career haltingly inched forward, there were years of friendship and pranks shared with best friends like Peter Shotton, pranks that kept John in the lower academic ranks and always on the verge of expulsion from school. It certainly doesn't seem like John lacked intellectual ability; he was just plain bored, so trouble was the spark that made school tolerable. John was a voracious reader and talented sketcher as well as evolving musician.
The rest of the novel takes up every step of John's strategy as well as the rejections and small bits of victory that led the band through different players, different managers and different ideas about how to become successful. It was only after John met Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr and a new manager, Brian Epstien, that John finally began to feel they had a chance at becoming "known" and not just in the backwaters of Liverpool.
Shoulda been there is meticulously researched, full of notes and comments debunking myths about John and his family, but all in all is told in fictional form, albeit this reviewer kept thinking of it as more of a memoir than a novel in which the author has imagined the conversations that occurred around historical events in Lennon's life. It's well-told, a bit stretchy with minutiae but a fascinating story for those who would love to read more about the man who gifted the world with an eclectic, memorable, life-changing series of songs and albums that will stand the test of time for sure.
Very, very well done, Ms. Kessler!!! This reviewer is avidly looking forward to your next segment of this story re John Lennon, the Beatle!!!
Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on May 18, 2008