My husband asked me recently why I like memoirs so much. I told him that I love getting the chance to understand someone else’s life so intimately, especially a life that is very different from my own. Hearing about someone’s experience in their own words – the challenges they’ve faced, the people who have shaped them, how they make sense of their place in the world – can be even more compelling than fiction, especially when the memoir is well-constructed and eloquently written. And that is the case with Spare, by Prince Harry. You all know what Spare is and what it’s about, and probably half of you have read it already, so I will keep this on the shorter side.
I know, I know; Harry and Meghan are overexposed and asking to be left alone and paid attention to at the same time. And Spare is, by necessity, a one-sided version of the most famous familial rift of our time. But it is Harry’s chance, finally, to tell his side of the story, to set the record straight on so many things that he has endured, silently, for decades. And it’s a really good book! It is well-written, beautifully paced, moving and compelling. I came away from the book feeling deep sympathy for Harry, for the boy left on his own to deal with his mother’s death, the dedicated soldier written off as stupid, the man trying to protect the woman he loves from the vicious tabloids. I believe that he tried to portray his family in the best light possible and that he gave them many chances to step up and come through for him. And time and time again, they didn’t.
People are going to bring their own biases and expectations to Spare, and I suspect some people will either miss out on or fail to notice what is a fundamentally good and very interesting book. Yes, it’s long, but there is nothing in there I would cut, even the middle section on Harry’s time in the military. Harry’s life has been uniquely fascinating – full of tragedy and loneliness, but also one in which he eventually found hard-won love, solace and fulfillment.
I highly recommend the audiobook, which is narrated by Prince Harry and greatly enhances the intimacy of the reading experience. 15.5 hours and worth it.
Spare is the 8th book of 2023 and satisfies the memoir category of the 2023 EDIWTB Reading Challenge.