“You might feel as if you’ve already read Prince Harry’s memoir,” But when you read it from cover to cover, Spare proves to be much more than the stories about its author losing his virginity to a “stallion trainer behind a pub”, or tussling with his brother in his kitchen, or getting frostbite on his “todger”. Instead, it’s a “richly detailed and at times beautifully written” story of a young man’s attempt to come to terms with his mother’s death, while immersed in the “golden goldfish bowl” of royal life.
Aided by his ghostwriter J.R. Moehringer, Harry seems to have “hit his stride on paper”. The “Californian inflections” of his Netflix TV series are replaced with a more “authentic” voice – one that can both convey his “white-hot hatred of the press” and vividly describe “the Queen whipping up a salad dressing”. “If Harry is going to set fire to his family, he has at least done it with some style.” Like its author, Spare is full of contradictions, it’s “good-natured, rancorous, humorous, self-righteous, self-deprecating, long-winded”. And at times it’s positively “bewildering”. For instance, he claims to discern that Diana, Princess of Wales’s spirit turns up in, variously, a leopard in Botswana, a fox at Eton and a painting. There is something “shamelessly unvarnished” about this book, Much of it reads like the “sort of therapeutic writing” that isn’t intended for public consumption. Scenes of Harry at his lowest ebb – self-medicating with psychedelics, or skulking to the supermarket by Kensington Palace disguised in a baseball cap while suffering from agoraphobia – feel “intrusive” to read. “What started as a form of mental health treatment has become commercialised self-exploitation.”
Harry’s version of events is “worth reading”, But it is not to be trusted. “The most damaging claims against members of his family are hearsay, such as what the King is supposed to have remarked when the prince was born.” Or “toxic speculation”, such as his accusations about Camilla’s ruthless ambition to acquire the crown. It made me rather nostalgic for medieval times, when Harry “could simply have raised an army and marched on his father and brother – instead of pointedly leaving them out of the dedication”, The central question that Spare asks is: “What happens to those royals for whom there is no role?” And it suggests, unfortunately, that there is “no good answer”.