• Sat. May 25th, 2024

‘Spare’ Review

ByNicholas Malizia

Feb 12, 2023
Prince Harry

Regardless of one’s opinion on the Royal Family, Spare represents a modern cultural document. From being marked half-priced in the UK from day one, to the borderline comical image of Harry on the jacket, to the viral “todger” passage and its marketing as a tell-all narrative, Prince Harry’s memoir seemed slated for big sales and mixed reception. 

Readers seemed polarised even before the book was released. I noticed that many of Spare’s most vehement critics had not even cracked the cover, some by principle. When I purchased Spare from a local shop, the clerk said he had “not read the book for ideological reasons.” As an American who grew up outside Britain’s monarchy culture, the defence of tight-lipped tradition is foreign to me. I wanted to give Harry’s memoir a solid read and the benefit of the doubt. 

After completing Spare’s 407 pages, I was left simultaneously moved, frustrated, and disappointed. Moved by Harry’s seemingly-genuine love for Megan, frustrated by the Royal Family’s gaslighting and disappointed with the memoir’s writing and construction. As with Harry’s public approval ratings, his memoir is a mixed bag. 

Much of Harry’s memoir is marked by a substantial lack of depth. There are hundreds of pages dedicated to poorly-remembered accounts of Harry’s school days and military career. Interspersed are episodes of exaggerated or libellous press stories: Harry’s Nazi costume, his false admittance to rehab, and the loss of his virginity. 

Admittedly, Spare’s account of the media paints an undeniably painful and invasive picture. However, much of the content about the press in Spare eventually becomes tedious. In the absence of any forward momentum in the story, it is easy to question the purpose of his writing a memoir in the first place—lots of people are hounded by the press. There are thousands of celebrities, public figures, and politicians whose lives would be improved without the interference of the media. I increasingly found myself sympathising with his experience but desiring more from the narrative. 

This is exacerbated by much of Spare’s reluctance to dissect the fabric of Harry’s existence. He repeatedly expresses confusion towards the paparazzi’s motives, asking, “Why did they want to be famous? That was a thing I never understood. They were children, incapable of understanding anything nuanced.” 

However, nuance is glaringly absent in Spare. Harry condemns the paparazzi but never makes an effort to understand their behaviour. There is no thoughtful meditation on the human pursuit of fame and wealth and power, which his family has fought to maintain for centuries. Throughout most of Spare, Harry makes no cerebral effort to confront the powers of the media or the monarchy.

When Megan enters Spare in the third act, the memoir gains some clarity and purpose. Focus is turned towards the interplay between the Windsors’ family dynamic and the press. Harry begins sharing more vulnerability, fleshing out the previously barren narrative. What Harry and Megan critics might call “oversharing,” I see as Spare’s raison d’être. Memoir writing is void without vulnerability and honesty. Spare’s final sixty pages attempt to accomplish this by shedding light on Harry’s jealous brother, double-crossing father, and complicit grandmother. I found myself growing outraged while the Palace slandered Harry’s family, and understanding his ultimate decision to step away. 

By the end, however, I found myself wondering what Spare accomplished other than garnering my sympathy. Harry attempts to combine thematic threads, declaring that his family’s legacy was “built on death,” that they “christened and crowned, graduated and married, passed out and passed over our beloved bones. Windsor castle itself is a tomb, the walls filled with ancestors. When is someone in this family going to break free and live?”- an admittedly artful statement that did little to make up for a mostly bland, shallow narrative. 

But I like to hold Harry’s book in a grey area: wherein Harry can piece together an account of his messy life that is both poorly written and deeply sympathetic. Maybe Spare was never meant to be perfectly written. Maybe it was supposed to pay for the millions of dollars of security fees the Palace refuses to pay. Maybe it was Harry’s attempt at regaining dignity after a lifetime of press abuse. Maybe it was an opportunity for Harry to take agency over his story. Whatever his motives, I found myself feeling happy for him by the time I closed the back cover. 

Image Credit: Prince Harry at the 2017 Invictus Games opening ceremony” by E. J. Hersom is licensed under CC BY 2.0.