By Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex
Reviewed by Marisa Stokley
ABOUT THE BOOK
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.
I eagerly awaited January 10, 2023, for months. One of the many who pre-ordered Spare in anticipation of, finally, reading Prince Harry’s story firsthand, I couldn’t wait for this moment to arrive.
At more than four hundred pages, Spare took me about five weeks to finish, which is longer than I anticipated my reading time to be. Much of that is due to the lack of time I have for personal reading, but the hefty amount of story that Prince Harry felt the need to tell should not be discounted. The prince is verbose, and people interested in learning about the minutia of his life will find it in this book. The lyricism of his words and vivid details he used to bring his memories to life captivated me enough that I felt I was with him at the palaces and castles of his childhood. One detail that caught my attention was is how much he loves his “mother country.” The descriptions of England and Scotland brought these fairytale-esque locations to life. I’ve no doubt after reading his memoir that Prince Harry always will love his homeland, regardless of his relationship with his family or the British media.
As much as I enjoyed certain aspects about Spare from the perspective from a royal fan, from an editorial perspective I had a handful of issues with the book. Spare is a memoir and will sound more like how people talk rather than an academic paper; nevertheless, the overabundance of run-on sentences and lack of proper grammar read like nails on a chalkboard.
Given my extensive familiarity with the history of the modern British royal family, the first part of the book (which dealt primarily with Harry’s early formative years) wore on me with its repetition of information and heavy-handedness about how much he missed his mother. I never thought I would say such words, but often I found myself thinking, “We all know this, Harry. Move on.” The second part of the book, alternatively, focused on Harry’s time in the military and provided a lot of new information. I liked this part; however, I didn’t care of for his use of more graphic language and attention on information unnecessary to moving along the narrative. The third part of Spare was all about his relationship with Meghan. Beautiful, poignant, and heartbreaking all in one, this portion of the book was perfect.
A much-needed outlet for a man who needed to share his side of sad tale, Spare should be on every royal fans bookshelves. No matter what a person thinks about Prince Harry’s choice to step back from royal life, Spare illuminates the real challenges of living within such a confining and emotionally stunted lifestyle. Knowing that much was cut from Prince Harry’s original submission for Spare, I hope that writing this book provided him a cathartic exercise and peace for his future.