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.
Wow. That was something. Besides the Queen’s funeral last year, I’ve largely ignored any news surrounding the monarchy. And so, Spare by Prince Harry wasn’t exactly on my radar. That is, until I saw the audiobook pop up on Libby and noticed that Prince Harry himself was the narrator. Quick glance at the holds queue told me I would be third. Alright, I figured, might as well find out what all the controversy is about.
Irony due to Another Voice
For someone who has so much vitriol for the press, he’s allowed himself a lot of airtime, so I was not prepared for the level of personal detail this memoir furnishes the world. That being said, Spare opened with such good prose, I paused after half-an-hour to look up the ghostwriter. No clue who J.R. Moehringer was — oh! he wrote Andre Agassi’s memoir besides his own and many more. That explains the sensationalist approach to certain parts of Spare, which I had perceived as huge shovels of irony.
In the hands of a storyteller rather than someone in want of privacy, the narrative made a great deal more sense. Although, it could be a bit jarring at times because Spare very much felt like it had been written by two people rather than one. The audiobook helps listeners to forget that because Prince Harry narrated well, which makes it feel like he’s telling his stories just for you.
If you’re looking for a memoir that purely conveys the voice of Prince Harry, this book probably isn’t worth your time. If however, you are looking to gain more insight into the life of Prince Harry written in an engaging manner, it may not be such a waste of time after all.
The chapters were short and digestible bundles of clips, which made it easy to put down and pick up whenever I needed to. Yet, with the highly engaging narration, I found myself not wanting to pause.
As far as memoirs go, this one was well crafted to suck the readers in. The prose is engaging, and it worked well for audio narration. Whether you listen while doing your chores, going on a walk or while driving, there are many natural pauses.
When it comes to the details, however, I don’t know what’s accurate, and what’s not. Even so, I was prepared for potential errors because memories are fallible. Case in point, I once conducted a research study which included asking participants when they had joined Facebook. When I cross checked their answers, the vast majority did not correctly remember how long they had been on the platform. One participant even claimed they had been on Facebook since 2003 — Facebook was founded in 2004 and was only open to Harvard students at the time. The participant wasn’t a Harvard student and so, never had early access.
Spare Captures Emotions But Not Responsibility
In terms of perspectives, you can hear the anguish in the tone of writing and tone of narration borne from anxiety, PTSD, grief, rejection, and more. It’s a rawness that made me feel sorry for how his experiences impacted him.
On the flip side, I struggled with the lack of ownership he took for certain behaviour. For instance, he used a slur without knowing it was racist, and instead of worrying about the impact, he was much more concerned about not being seen as a racist. Not when it happened. And not now in retrospect.
Overall, this memoir depicts how Prince Harry sees things, and that does ring true. It reveals things so personal, they veer towards TMI at some points. But that’s his choice.
What was missing for me was the consideration of who he was vs. who he is today. Is Spare merely a plea to justify his actions while airing his grievances with the press and public using his wrought relationships because he feels wronged? Or does he want to right what’s been wronged, regardless of who’s at fault, even if it’s him? I’m leaning towards the former, though I was rooting for the latter.