Book Review: Spare

Oh, Prince Harry. I have so many thoughts on this book. I generally enjoy following royal culture because it’s just that – a truly unique culture. I soak up the trivia associated with this small little world and love learning about the Institution’s traditions, rules, and behind the scenes details. I’ve been a fan of Harry and Meghan – I’m not a stan by any means, but I like them enough, believe they have a right to share their story, and do think Meghan was dealt a pretty poor hand. I read this book because I thought it would make me like them more and…it kinda did the opposite. I don’t normally review like this, but I just had soooo many thoughts that I’m breaking them out below:

  • Overall, I thought Prince Harry comes off as a bit petulant. He eschews blame and doesn’t actually take accountability for the actions/missteps of his youth. I remember when he made headlines for wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party so I was eager to see how he would address this moment with more than a decade of reflection and maturity under his belt. Here is a moment when he could have simply said “I’ve changed. I learned. I understand.” Instead he says “I did all that…buuuuut you should know that I only did it because Will and Kate said it was ok and funny.” First of all, ouch. What a dig at his brother and SIL. And it made me wonder if he truly did learn because after all this time he still felt the need to throw someone else under the bus as a way to explain and downplay his actions.
  • The entire book felt like an effort to portray himself as a Regular Joe. He devotes a huge portion of the book to describing his time in the army, which makes sense because it was a formative part of his life; however, when he starts using this as a way to show that he’s “normal” because it’s the kind of thing the heir would never be allowed to do, that’s where he loses me. His fellow soldiers didn’t have bodyguards with them and they didn’t leave the action when it was time for a ribbon cutting ceremony. And most people don’t jet off to Botswana whenever they’re feeling a little blue. And Tyler Perry doesn’t offer up his mansion to anyone else he’s never met. And when the rest of us decide to live a low key, simpler life, our version of simple is not a $14 million estate in Montecito. We are not the same – and that should be ok; just recognize and own your immense privilege.
  • On that note, he talks about drinking tequila in LA like he’s some sort of country bumpkin who lives a sheltered life, eating takeout over the sink…but two pages prior he was talking about shrooming in Courteney Cox’s house. Those two personas don’t jive.
  • For someone who continuously says he doesn’t care about royal stuff, he seems fixated on not being a more important royal. It’s almost as if he wants the recognition of an heir or wants out entirely, which just comes off as bratty.
  • We get it; Meghan didn’t Google him, but she’s admitted to going down the rabbit hole of his Instagram. It was highly tactical to stress “I didn’t Google” in the interviews and again in this book because the implication is that she entered the relationship completely naïve of all its trappings. But that’s not the case. It’s like when they said in the Oprah interview that they’d already gotten married in the backyard. Harry admits here that it was non-binding and purely ceremonial, but they didn’t say that in the interview. It was calculated and said for shock value. They knew how it would come off – like they had their own little real wedding as an eff you to the palace. It was intentional. Sure, nobody lied – she might have never Googled – but they implied and knew exactly what they were doing.
  • Similarly, there was a moment when Meghan asked about the assistant holding the Queen’s purse and Harry replied “That’s her son, Andrew – wow she really hadn’t Googled us.” I admit, I snickered imagining this whole scene. But then someone in my book club pointed out two things 1) this was around the time of Andrew’s horrid sexual abuse allegations – it was impossible to escape that news and 2) they were there with, among others, Prince Andrew’s daughter, Eugenie, who they’ve discussed hanging out with frequently. At some point, wouldn’t Eugenie have called him “Dad” or at least acknowledged his presence? I doubt he was standing against the wall the whole time like a butler in Downton Abbey. Why is it so important to him/them to push this narrative of Meghan knowing nothing about the royal family?
  • If Harry told Meghan how to do her hair and makeup to meet Charles (which came off as a bit eww), I can no longer believe he didn’t prepare her for all the other stuff (like the curtsey) and meeting the Queen. He has made it very clear that he is aware of how to present things to senior royals so I can’t imagine it was ever positioned as “just meeting Grandma.”
  • He still has major love for the monarchy and says his real issue is with the paparazzi…but fails to make the connection between the antiquated views of the monarchy when it comes to their relationship with the paparazzi. He has a reaction to a comparison to a panda in the zoo – it’s valid not to want to be dehumanized, but he’s missing the point that the monarchy refuses to modernize/adapt. If they still have the country pay for their lives but neglect to give a little, there is a reason people feel like they can stare at them like zoo animals. If the monarchy doesn’t make the relationship with their people a symbiotic one, it’s purely transactional, and people don’t have empathy during transactions – it’s not personal; it’s business. If he’s not going to criticize the Institution that set the tone and nature of the relationship, he’s lost ground to criticize the way people treat them.
  • I found a few tidbits very interesting: the queen requiring bagpipers to follow her around is on a whole other level and the existence of a court circular is crazy.
  • He hates Camilla. And his brother. Yikes. But he seems to be quite reserved when it comes to his father. I’m not sure if it’s because he wants to be careful around the King or if there’s simply a deep and complicated love there that he’s not ready to give up on.
  • The whole frostbitten penis thing and knowing the cold cream recommended is the same one his mother used…not buying it. I don’t know a single man who could name his wife’s favorite perfume (even though he’s probably been the one to purchase it) so I doubt he knew the brand of cold cream his mother used, particularly since he was only 12 when she passed. An odd detail.

PHEW! That was a lot, I know. I’m glad we could all chat that out together. In addition to getting me fired up, I found it to be quite verbose. His ghostwriter needed to do a bit more editing, which is the primary driver for my rating.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

Pair with: an espresso martini