Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story --a book review

Now that I am finished with the 1965 tour special, I am back to my regular schedule, which includes one of my favorite features:  Wednesday Reviews!

Today's review is a book that has been getting a LOT of attention in the out of the Beatles fan world.  And sure I have heard a lot about the book The Fifth Beatle:  The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek Tiwary.   I heard how it had been a #1 best seller on the New York Times list (pretty impressive for a Beatles book!).   I heard how Vivek Tiwary was a Tony Award winning producer of one of my top 5 all time favorite plays, A Raisin in the Sun (and I loved the revival he did of it that was shown on television about 10 years ago).    I heard about how this book about Brian Epstein was well researched and has been so well received that a movie is planned to be made in the very near future.     And yet, I had no desire to buy this book.   

It isn't because I don't love Brian Epstein.   The Beatles' manager is one of my favorite people in the Beatles' story and I truly believe that the Beatles wouldn't have made it without Brian's help.    I also think that Brian was such a huge influence that when he died, that truly was the beginning of the break-up of the band.   I think a book on Brian for the general public is long overdue.    Sure there are some books about his life as well as his own "auto" biography, but they really aren't for the group of people that like the Beatles, but don't live and breathe them.    Too many people who listen to Beatles songs and are casual fans have no idea who Brian Epstein was, and that is just a shame.

So why didn't I rush out and get this book when it was first released?   Two words:  Graphic novel.   Now I am a reading teacher, and I appreciate graphic novels and I encourage my students to read them.   But I am not a "comic book" person.  I want to read a book and not the funny pages.    However, after hearing Vivek speak at Beatlefest with such passion for telling the story of Brian Epstein, I decided to give the book a chance.

I am still not sold on graphic novels.   I have no plans on going to buy any others.   However, The Fifth Beatle was a wonderful introduction into the life of Brian Epstein.    It was dug deeper into his life than just being a gay guy or just being the manager of the Beatles, which seems to be the only two things ever mentioned about him.     The theme of bullfighting, which Brian loved, is symbolic throughout the book.   I was impressed by how well the story flowed and wasn't confusing (something I have complained in the past about graphic novels).

I really enjoyed the illustrations.   Andrew Robinson is a very talented artist.   Some of his work of John Lennon, especially were great and I laughed because the art of the Beatles in Manila changed from the serious style that we have seen throughout to the style of the cartoon Beatles.    My favorite illustration is one that was taken from a well-loved fan photo!  You can see Brian's reflection in the glass and it is recreated in the book. 


There is a re-occurring character in the book, who is Brian's secretary that is totally fiction.   I didn't care for that.   I understand WHY that character was there, but she never existed and I feel that people who aren't familiar with  Brian's life will think that she was a real person.    Wendy Hanson was his secretary---why not use her instead?

Overall, I thought this was an interesting book and I am glad that I now have it in my Beatles library.   I am not sure how often I am going to be referring back to it, but I am curious to see what the film will be like.    If you'd like to learn more about this book, see this page!

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