A Review of the Memoir Spare
by Prince Harry
"For all eternity we'd be smiling at her in the darkness, and maybe it was this image that as the flag came off and the coffin descended to the bottom of the hole that finally broke me."
When I first heard about Spare, I wondered if it would be a sordid tell-all because, let's face it, the royal family doesn't just have a closet full of skeletons; they've got a mansion with a detached three-car garage. As the release day approached, like a steady drip of water from a faucet, we learned of scandalous stories of everything physical family fights and frostbite on rather intimate body parts. We, the readers, seemed to be in for a wild ride. And we were, but not because Prince Harry told us where all the bodies were buried but because it the remarkable story of one man's journey to becoming who is he is today.
It would be easy to turn this review into a think piece on modern monarchies and toxic family units. However, this review aims to avoid that and focus on the memoir. Broken into three parts, the book is primarily about the life cycle of grief, how untreated trauma impacts every aspect of your life, and of course, healing. The style of this memoir reflects the tone of its contents: thoughtful, reflective, and a little bit awkward at times. The stories he chooses to share are engaging and interesting. Still, Prince Harry's reflections on them really reel you in. He addresses directly and frankly the dark places he has been, the mistakes he's made, and the lessons learned. His reflections are honest and raw, filled with emotion and vulnerability, making him feel like a real person. We begin to understand the normalcy we take for granted, he never had a frame of reference for.
Because the press had always depicted him as a somewhat debaucherous jester (and at times he was), I never knew how much conservation work he had done in Africa, nor was I aware of his service record. The way he writes about his mother is beautiful and tragic. His reverence for her is evident, and he opens up about how her death and how he was made to respond would affect the rest of his life. She clearly shaped him as a person, and he is attempting to carry on and live up to her legacy. He also speaks warmly about the other women who help shape his life, but he reserves his adoration for Meghan Markle. If you're a sucker for romance novels like myself, the way he writes about her is swoon-worthy.
The book, at its core, is an indictment of the press. Prince Harry is utterly scathing in his opinion of them, lashing out about how they've contributed to the worst moments of his life. He pushes back on the idea that the price of his existence is never being able to have privacy of any sort (which is a different thing entirely from willingly sharing portions of your life with the public). At the same time, he speaks casually about rather unimaginable parts of his upbringing. Sometimes, I found myself thinking that his accounts mirrored that of a former cult member that hasn't fully confronted the truth. The reader (intentionally or not) sees the internal struggle to deconstruct and recontextualize the idea of the Royal Family as a family but also complicit members of a problematic system. His flaws are also on full display. He does not shy away from confronting his shortcomings and failures.
I got the audiobook version. Being able to hear Prince Harry tell his own story with his own voice adds a level of depth and nuance to the storytelling. He's certainly no voice actor, but the reading was pleasant, albeit a bit clumsy at times. However, his narration enriched the story because you could hear the emotion he was trying to convey. It is long, so it might take you some time to get through it, but it's completely worth it, in my opinion.