Author: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex
Publisher: Random House of Canada
Publication Date: January 10, 2023
Before losing his mother, twelve-year-old Prince Harry was known as the carefree one, the happy-go-lucky Spare to the more serious Heir. Grief changed everything. He struggled at school, struggled with anger, with loneliness—and, because he blamed the press for his mother’s death, he struggled to accept life in the spotlight. At twenty-one, he joined the British Army. The discipline gave him structure, and two combat tours made him a hero at home. But he soon felt more lost than ever, suffering from post-traumatic stress and prone to crippling panic attacks. Above all, he couldn’t find true love.
Then he met Meghan. The world was swept away by the couple’s cinematic romance and rejoiced in their fairy-tale wedding. But from the beginning, Harry and Meghan were preyed upon by the press, subjected to waves of abuse, racism, and lies. Watching his wife suffer, their safety and mental health at risk, Harry saw no other way to prevent the tragedy of history repeating itself but to flee his mother country. Over the centuries, leaving the Royal Family was an act few had dared. The last to try, in fact, had been his mother. . . For the first time, Prince Harry tells his own story, chronicling his journey with raw, unflinching honesty.
As with many a memoir, one must understand that they are embarking on an exploration of an individual’s personal narrative, which may contain within it, particular biases and perspective, and we, as the readers, must take these perspectives with a grain of salt. I, like much of the reading world, was caught up the past few weeks in the reading frenzy that is Spare. Though it might be setting records in terms of sale numbers, when it comes to style, tone, cadence, and overall quality of writing, I can’t say it’ll be breaking any records any time soon, but perhaps I’m wrong. This narrative, though interesting in it’s close up view inside royal life, is too long, fragmented and disjointed, and overall disappointing from what one would expect from a tell-all memoir. Ghost-written by J. R. Moehringer, there’s not a ton in here that hasn’t already been exposed either in public media over the past decades, or revealed in the recent Netflix docuseries, Harry and Meghan.
My honest, personal opinion is that the writing is mediocre at best and the descriptions of other “characters” so to speak, is too simple, often presenting royal family members in snapshot caricatures rather than building them out as real and whole people. Story after story details Price Harry to be the victim, even at the height of his own assertion of ownership over his own life, he still often slams up against the brick walls of the family members around him. In his book they are angry villains, no better than the savage media that has ravaged their lives.
I am a fan both of Harry and Meghan and of Will and Kate, but this book has done justice to no one. Though there is honesty (so Harry says), we must be critical of this one perspective and understand it is only one side of the story. This books revelations are often awkward, uncomfortable, or just too short and abrupt to be fully digestible. I found it difficult to interpret the truth amid all of the nonsense. The timing and pacing are certainly off; Harry drones on at length about the army, yet falls short in his coverage on discovering that his wife is suicidal and how he came to process, understand, and empathize with her over time. He shows us anger and rage at his brother in particular, yet rarely, if ever, reveals moments of love and tenderness, to the point where their relationship seems particularly one sided, with Harry portrayed as the only one to ever assert feelings of true kinship.
It was a bit of a hefty book to get through, but I made it to the other side. I’m sure there will be many a conflicting opinion over this story. The royals are nothing if not polarizing for many people. In the end, I was left feeling more dissatisfied than had I not read this book. My biggest regret is the nearly $50 that it cost to purchase, though I can gladly say at least that money went to supporting the local bookstore.