I have just finished reading what is probably the most talked about, the most read about, the most commented on book of 2023 so far. It’s a story that takes us from the young prince walking behind his mother’s coffin in 1997 to doing the same for his grandmother in 2022. This is not really a book review, rather some thoughts after the experience of reading Spare.
Why did I read it?
I am not especially a royal follower or monarchist, and so I was almost surprised at myself for wanting to read it. There has been so much hype around the book – from when we first heard about it (and its somewhat provocative title) to now, when you can hardly avoid seeing a plethora of news headlines about it, mostly I have to say negative – and vicious. I think I just wanted to read it for myself and therefore, to make my own mind up.
So what are my overall impressions of the book? I don’t want to give anything away – if you haven’t read it yet you may well feel you know everything there is to know about it, but you may find one or two surprises.
Throughout the book, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness. Not that it is all sad, but this is a young man, obviously not one leading a ‘normal’ life, who has had to, and continues to, live his whole life in the public eye. Someone, who whatever your take on the royal institution, didn’t choose to be born into that position, didn’t choose for his mother to die when he was young, and who has had very little in the way of control over his own destiny. For me this is a human story, and that very humanity is beautifully engaging, drawing the reader into the narrative, and giving a glimpse, and that is all, of a life very different from ours. I had never given any thought to having to go in disguise to the local shop or having to get permission to travel. I have thought many times that I would never want to switch positions.
The things that stood out for me are Harry’s passion and affinity with Botswana, as well as other parts of the world – read about Australia and the North and South Poles, about his sense of belonging in the army – there’s quite a bit about his time in Afghanistan, and about love. Love for his mother, a need for love, and of course, the Harry and Meghan story.
What the media said
I referred earlier to headlines and articles in the press – almost entirely negative. I am not going to go into what is, and isn’t truthful about what has been reported, you can check that for yourselves. However, I am going to say that having had to read snippets from many of these articles, I did not recognise these sentiments when I actually read the book. Not at all. It was another lesson in how we can, and we all are, manipulated by the tabloid press – and that is without even intentionally reading from those papers. Ironic that this is a theme that runs through Spare.
I have heard a number of people, from some of my friends many times in the last couple of weeks that they will not read it. The same people often have strong opinions about its content, mainly gleaned from the sources I mentioned earlier. What I would say is, please read it, if possible keeping your mind open, and without too many pre-conceived ideas. Not an easy task in today’s world, but definitely a challenge worth taking up.
I can thoroughly recommend the book and I wish Harry and Meghan, and their little family well.