Prince Harry’s “Spare”: A Review by Anjana Basu

Publisher: Penguin Random House UK
Rs 1,599

A Review by Ms. Anjana Basu

The problem with Spare begins even before you start the book. Why did Harry do it? Was he inspired by his mother’s famous kiss and tell interview to get his shot in? Or was it produced as a means of distracting public attention from the dismal political situation in Great Britain? A meme which came out shortly after the book hit stands worldwide described it as ‘Harrykiri’. Possibly it is – the title is guaranteed to evoke sympathy for his mother’s son. Followed by a series of chapters with borrowed but evocative titles that bear testimony to Harry’s unflinching spirit. He emerged from all crises he claimed ‘as the captain of his soul’.  

The reader, venturing into the book, is cast into a series of short choppy sentences that take their time about evening out. But one can blame that on Harry’s ghost, JR Moehringer who chose to condense Harry’s normal Sloan Ranger dialogues into this kind of text when it suited him, peppering it with slices of poetry like his description of a bagpipe which ‘ looked like a drunken octopus’. Moehringer and the Duke of Sussex also chose to open the book with strategic loss – not Harry’s mother in this opening – but that of the Duke of Edinburgh though from that the other follows. And there are the ghosts of the Windsors, Edward and his Wallis who were allowed into the family graveyard but at a distance from the rest, at Granny’s compassionate yet unflinching decree. Something that Harry seems to fear might await the Sussexes, as he explains why he stepped back from his royal duties.

However, that is only the prologue and it sets the tone for the rest of the book. Diana and her legendary life follow including his father’s announcement to the boys of their mother’s passing –  “Darling boy, Mummy’s been in a car crash…”. For Harry it led to a moment that few could imagine – trailing his mother’s coffin watched by millions with a suspicion that those who had caused her death were also watching.

Genuine sadness notwithstanding, Spare is a dynasty of a book, a soap opera of a book with a piling up of arguments and unhappiness. William’s refusal to let Harry grow a beard for his wedding for example which might come into the realm of petty arguments except that it takes place between the heir to the British throne and his brother –‘ At one point he actually ordered me, as the Heir speaking to the Spare, to shave.’ Harry’s Beardsgate that was! There is the famous argument between Meghan and Kate which was first exposed on Oprah and which started it all but which is added to here with some juicy titbits, things that most large Indian families would take with a pinch of salt. Even Meghan’s complexion and mixed race would here be put down to gori nahin hai and wrong caste, resulting in much the same chaos. 

However, we are talking about the British Royal Family which is expected to display a stiff upper lip at all times – or was until Diana broke through and encouraged the sharing of sentiment. Henry Charles Albert David of Wales describes his environment with what seems like a distinct pout on occasion – the fact that his brother had a bigger bedroom for example and the fact that he began to be known as the Spare while William was the Heir, though apparently came from something his father told his mother when Harry was born. Harry keeps an unfailing list of slights and disappointments but also mentions things like the fact that he and his brother were served fish fingers under  silver cloches and that the water in the Balmoral loos was brown. This could of course be to draw the reader in through a distinct shying away from royalty and privilege, but somehow when he talks about Granny and her sense of ceremonial at the same time, the effect is distinctly unbalanced – Spare has in fact been called ‘the weirdest book ever written by a royal’.

Most people will be waiting to read about Meghan and she enters the book on the heels of a mushroom trip heralded by a the vision of a moon – the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Coincidentally, on his mother’s birthday. Their romance begins with wild night among the lions in a tent, his bodyguards near by, a structured occasion if any. The irony, of course, was when Kate and William were introduced to Meghan and professed themselves diehard fans of Suits!

And then details of Megha’s life in the tabloids with the ‘paps’ on her heels caused everything to fall apart, including the Royal Family who had no idea what to do next – perhaps shunt Harry and Megan off to Bermuda and defuse the vortex of scandal. On February 2021 they were stripped of all royal privileges. Ultimately it was California dreaming for them both – though Harry consulted a nameless woman who assured him that he was leading his life as his mother would have wanted him to. 

The question is will the Royal Family be annoyed by the memoir? Perhaps at being called petty – though all this stays at the level of sibling rivalry. Perhaps the tabloids will be irritated at being deprived of bits of juicy gossip which they could have sold for dollars and which Harry’s revelations have forestalled. And yes, there are readers who might find Harry’s self absorption annoying, a joint smoking prince who had the benefit of body guards while he broke the law.

However, scandals, scoundrels, paps and all many people will flick through the book – if only to find out what it was all actually about. And certainly it is worth the chance to get up close and personal with a Prince – perhaps a little too personal on occasion.

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