Today I’m finally sharing my SPARE by Prince Harry. I think, for most of you, this book probably needs no introduction. Regardless, this is Prince Harry’s memoir from around the time his mother died to approximately present day. I apologize in advance for the lengh of this piece. But I had a lot to say about how some niches of the book community received this book.
Author: Prince Harry
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: January 10, 2023
Print Length: 416
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It was one of the most searing images of the twentieth century: two young boys, two princes, walking behind their mother’s coffin as the world watched in sorrow–and horror. As Princess Diana was laid to rest, billions wondered what Prince William and Prince Harry must be thinking and feeling–and how their lives would play out from that point on.
For Harry, this is that story at last.
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. A landmark publication, Spare is full of insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief.
Let me start right off the bat and say this review of SPARE by Prince Harry is more in the style of a commentary. I did this with THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS. When there are already so many reviews floating around for bestsellers, I prefer to take the commentary approach.
I went into this not really knowing much about Prince Harry’s life. I knew some generalities and the past few years of events, no thanks to how awfully the media portrayed Meghan. So, I definitely wouldn’t call myself a royal watcher. I fall more in the category of “casually clicking on headlines.” I am aware of the highly publicized events. Frankly, it’s hard not to be when media splash them on the front page.
I approached SPARE not as a tell all, but as an autobiography by someone who wants to tell his own side of the story without the media twisting events. I am also fully cognizant that it is one side of the story, much like the documentary Harry and Meghan made for Netflix. However, I do feel that Harry tactfully shares his life with readers, despite it being within his right to lambast all of the crooked reporters he encountered in his life. The buzz about this book made it seem like Harry shared some super juicy information about his family. And, I suppose by British and royal standards it is juicy, particularly because of the more subdued expression of opinions in British culture and the intensely private nature of the institution.
I wasn’t expecting a large portion of the book to focus on Harry’s time in the military. Personally I found this entire section boring. Objectively, I understand why it has a lot of page time. It was an incredibly formative experience for Harry in a number of ways. It gave him a purpose, taught him leadership and new skills, provided camraderie and a found family. The military also gave him much needed breathing room away from the press to think.
I appreciated Harry’s vulnerability in talking about his mental health throughout SPARE. It is amazing he’s doing as well as he is given the environment in which he grew up. It sounds so toxic. I know, and he knows, he was born into privilege, but that doesn’t excuse the actions of the media nor the institution.
Which brings me to my next point. SPARE isn’t a book about atonement. Within the book review sphere I’ve seen some express disappointment that Harry didn’t devote more time to making amends for wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party all those years ago. Those who seek a lengthy atonement for his choice should look elsewhere. SPARE is a book about Harry’s life, not a book about combatting societal injustices. He mentions making this poor decision. And he mentions having some important discussions with a rabbi afterward. Obviously he shouldn’t have chosen that uniform as a costume. Nor should his family have encouraged it. Let’s acknowledge that most people have the sense of mind to recognize that a Nazi uniform is not an appropriate choice for a costume, ever.
That said, can we just give Harry the space to be a human? Society is, broadly, so hell bent on persecuting people for past bad decisions. I feel this is true even if/when they share they’ve done some learning since said event. Yes, I acknowledge that Harry has a platform on which he can use his privilege to advance social justice. But, at the end of the day, each and every one of us is human, no matter how famous or not we are. And I think everyone deserves the space to reflect on their life without having to advance an agenda. Harry chose to reflect publicly because he’s a public figure who had his story stolen and twisted his entire life by malicious media. And, even though Harry received payment for this book deal, he chose to do this as a way to heal from all of the trauma induced by the media and the institution.
We can never know the full story or the extent to which someone has done work on themselves to be a better person. Would you want everything laid bare? Especially in today’s world where it seems like there is an infinite amount of people to twist what you say? Or those who take an omission of something and spin it into a narrative that you didn’t say or mean?
All this to say, have some compassion. I am not an apologist for his past behaviour with respect to the Nazi uniform. But remember to be kind and give the benefit of the doubt sometimes. Also, it’s impossible to take on and champion every single social injustice issue. And sometimes I feel like society expects public figures to take on every issue. Again, what Harry did was wrong, but I’d like to believe he knows this now.
As an side, it surprised me when he said he didn’t know enough about the Nazis. He mentioned his lack of knowledge was a failure of education and self-education (Loc 3349). I mean, I’m American and was taught fairly extensively about the Nazis. England was bombed by them, so how it was a failure of education is beyond my understanding of their education system. Or maybe I had the privilege to go to a public school system that valued teaching truth.
“Centuries ago royal men and women were considered divine; now they were insects. What fun, to pluck their wings.”Loc 847
Content warnings: death, death of a parent, harrassment (media)
Reading format: Library e-book
Nonfiction Reader Challenge
I am including this SPARE by Prince Harry book review as part of the Nonfiction Read Challenge to fulfill the Memoir/Biography category.
Have you read SPARE by Prince Harry? What were some of your thoughts about it?