Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Review: Spare

Spare Spare by Prince Harry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Part I: This book has been wholly mischaracterized. Parts of it have been quoted in the media but, like most of Harry’s life, it is taken out of context. This book, at the very heart of it, is about a boy and his grief. Grief is complex. Processing the death of a mother at the age of 12 is a complicated undertaking for any adolescent boy. Harry’s journey with grief is isolated and lonely. That is the most striking tone of the book. Being part of the British Monarchy means standing apart from the rest, allowing conjecture even when it’s wrong, and never receiving the comfort needed.

This is not a Kitty Kelly tell-all. The attention Prince Harry gives to others is framed by and within his relationships. In fact, the relationships are quite endearing. I like King Charles much better after reading this book. The relationship between Harry and his father is quite tender. In fact, most of my preconceived notions about many of the Royalty were quite wrong. They really are humans cast in the role of Royals. Which really is quite lonely.

The barrier Harry breaks down shedding light on his own life. The life within the Monarchy is fascinating and different from anything I’ve ever known. At the same time, a very human Harry is navigating his duties, his education, trying to stay out of the tabloids, youthful foibles, growing up, and being human, all under the scrutiny of everybody. More than anything, though, Prince Harry is a boy carrying the heavy burden of his grief with nobody to help him process it. He’s not blaming anybody, he’s simply giving his story in authentic strokes and through the perspective of a man that has gained wisdom from his journey. I’m not finished but I’m finding the overarching theme of grief and loneliness universal.

To be continued.


Part II: Wow. Really. Wow. I have a lot of thoughts on this book. The first is that this is the first time a member of the British Monarchy has told his or her story first person. There is no hiding behind the curtain and the pretense of using a third party. This is Harry's story. Harry sheds a light on the goings on within the Monarchy. Again, it is not a gossip rag or tell-all. The Monarchy is a complex system. I watched interviews and was highly confused. Harry talks about the "Institution" with disdain yet shares a recent interaction with a grandparent that is heartwarming and tender. Although it's still not completely clear to me, it seems the Monarchy consists of 4 distinct parts. The first is the institution of the Monarchy. This is an overarching everythingness. It is the pomp and circumstance, the charitable work, the bloody history, the Royal Engagements, and all the people that make it work. It is the Crown. It is the national pride. It is sacred and must be protected at all costs. The second part of the Monarchy is the people. This was Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, Princess Diana, Harry, William, King Charles, etc. They are individuals and have relationships separate from the Institution. The Institution often dictates how they are treated in public and even how the Queen might meet her new great grandchildren, but this part is more personal. That said, the Institution of the Monarchy comes before all else. So relationships are not always intact. Thirdly, we have Royal Aides and secretaries. These are political parties/people that provide services for the Institution. These are also people that leak crap stories to the fourth, and final members of the Monarchy; the Press. The Press is not inherently evil but the tabloids are. Like in the United States, Rupert Murdoch has no respect for truth, privacy, or human life. But he is not the only one. Very early on, Harry establishes that the story spun by the parties regarding Diana's death was one of fiction. The blame fell on the driver who they claimed was drunk (he never drank while on duty) and was dead so he couldn't defend himself. Based on the way the tabloid reporters treated Harry, it is evident that it was they who ran the car into the pylon, causing Diana's death.

All of that is simply a preface to Prince Harry's story. He is unflinchingly honest. He is still very careful to not throw any family members under the bus. He is, however, honest in the fact that they are complicit in their dysfunctional symbiotic relationship with the tabloids. Prince Harry provides context for the past 25 years for his life in the tabloids. Did he do stupid stuff? He did and he owns it.

By the end of the book, I found that the story at shifted from a boy and his lonely grief to being a love letter. It is an achingly beautiful love letter to William. Such a complex relationship, as siblings often are. It is made much more complex in the fact that William's mindset is not relational but institutional. It is a love letter to his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth. The Queen had a special love for Harry and he never doubted it. It is a love letter to his father, the King. He loves him and wishes he had chosen to protect him but he still loves him. It is a love letter to Diana in so many ways. It is a love letter to Meghan and his children, the reason he followed through in doing what Diana began decades ago. He is putting his family first. He is still loyal to the Crown and country, but he separated himself from the Institution in order to become the husband and father he is today. As the "spare" he has the option of becoming an independent person. And frankly, we Americans love him for it. And Meghan for helping him.

View all my reviews

No comments: