I had no intention of reading Prince Harry’s memoir. Until I did. I should have known I’d cave, I’m a sucker for memoirs. There’s something about hearing a person’s story in their own words, particularly if that story is contested in some way, as Prince Harry’s has always been. What Spare is, at its core, is a person reckoning with the way in which they were raised, and the very real ways grief and trauma informed their experience of the world. That is the piece of the writing that pushed me to finish the book because even as I started, I figured I would not read the last section on his relationship with Meghan (particularly since I had watched their Netflix documentary series) but alas I read all 410 pages of this book.
Before continuing It should be mentioned that while Harry is never going to join me in my anti-monarchy sensibilities, he does acknowledge the cost the monarchy has for the British taxpayer (and its benefits) in addition to the colonialism. Of course, I would have preferred if he had dug deeper into how the exploitation of indigenous peoples and other communities of color in the name of colonialism built the system in which he lived but that is not this book, and that is okay. (I do wonder if the other books possibly in the pipeline he has alluded to in interviews will tackle that more head-on, but I know the answer is probably not.)
Spare instead is a chronicling of Harry’s life ages 12-37. He struggled at school, struggled with anger, with loneliness and with existing in a pre-established relationship with the British press, whom he blamed for his mother’s death, had with his family. He rails against all of it, to a mixed bag of results. He doesn’t shy away from discussing all the times he’s ended up in press for legitimate errors of judgement (the Nazi uniform, the ethnic slurs, the nakedness) but the impression – from action and word – is that he is someone looking to correct his errors or lack of knowledge. It is obvious from the writing that his time in the British Army is foundational to how he built his adult life, but it is not without further cost in the form of post-traumatic stress and crippling panic attacks. It is not surprising then that the last 6-8 years have played out the way they have. While truth is often at the intersection of stories this book is well enough written that while acknowledging that it cannot all be accurate, it feels more in line with our fallible memories, not active obfuscation. But… I could be wrong about that; I just hope I am not. I think the book would have been served better by waiting a bit longer to publish, but I understand that they have security bills to pay and deals with Netflix and his publisher make that happen, so I’ll accept it as is without too much complaint.