Book Review: Prince Harry’s memoir “Spare” is fascinating, heart-breaking, and simply breathtaking


Edwin He

Prince Harry’s new memoir, Spare, sold over 3.2 million copies worldwide in only the first week.

Born in the British royal family, son of beloved Princess Diana, and grandson to the late Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry was a celebrity from the moment he was born and was cast into the limelight at the age of 12, after the tragedy of his mother’s death. 

Prince Harry is a controversial figure, appearing frequently in the news. He was accused of cheating at Eton, a prestigious British school, by teacher Sarah Forsyth. The media reported on many instances during his high school years when he smoked cannabis and drank alcohol underage. Shockingly, he dressed as a Nazi officer to a costume party. And finally, in 2020, Queen Elizabeth announced that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle were splitting from the royal family, and would no longer carry out the duties of a royal.

Harry recently published his memoir, Spare, giving his side of the story from the death of his mother when he was 12 to the death of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, just recently in 2022. His book was an instant hit, selling 1.4 million copies on the first day. With its immense popularity, is this book a literature masterpiece, plain average, or a messy patchwork of words stitched together? After reading Harry’s memoir, I believe Spare is 100% worth your time. 

Before I dived into this book, I was skeptical that I was going to enjoy it. The online articles did not paint a flattering image. He seemed arrogant, shameless, and careless. I imagined him as the stereotypical spoiled kid, the one that does not work for a single cent, inheriting all the money from their parents, but at the same time believing that they were better than everyone else. And . . . I was simply wrong. Instead of a hastily written jumble of thoughts used to poorly justify past actions, I found surprising depth, complexity, and beauty all bundled up exquisitely in 416 pages of a riveting read, touching on grief, adventure, regret, love, and all things in between. 

First of all, the writing in this book was masterfully done and throughout the book I find myself either wanting to cry because of the pain Harry felt or wanting to punch the wall due to his frustration. I was also impressed with how willing he was to broadcast his faults on full display and not shy away from discussing controversial past events. 

Harry admits that he smoked cannabis and even cocaine (not previously known) in high school. He even admits that he lied to the press to cover it up. He talks about the party where he dressed up as a Nazi. Prince Harry remarks, “I felt that I deserved to be engulfed . . . I wasn’t [thinking].” Later in the book, when visiting Berlin, he writes, “I’d long understood that the photo of me in a Nazi uniform had been the result of various failures—failure of thinking, failure of character . . . I’d resolved to change that. I couldn’t become the person I hoped to be until I changed that.” Whether he is sincere is up for interpretation, but I am glad that he apologized in his memoir instead of taking the easy route of avoiding the subject and letting events be buried in the past.

Throughout the memoir, loss and grief is a central theme. Harry’s words deliver a powerful impact when talking about his mental state after the loss of his mom. I gained a whole new understanding of what it is like to lose a parent, especially one that you loved so much. For example, after Harry was informed of his mother’s death, he explains his denial, “Body. People kept using that word. It was a punch in the throat, and a bloody lie, because Mummy wasn’t dead.” Subsequently, at the funeral, Harry recalls his emotional state after he realized that there was a photo of him and his brother placed on the lid of his mother’s coffin. “For all eternity, we’d be smiling at her in the darkness . . . My body convulsed and my chin fell and I began to sob uncontrollably.” 

The Spare is a one of a kind story. It is a story of a man who lived four distinct lifetimes: rebel, prince, soldier, and husband. It is a story of unending grief and realized peace. It is a story of long-fought battles. It is a story of Prince Harry’s struggle. For all of these reasons, The Spare is in every way fascinating, heart-breaking, and simply breathtaking. 

His struggle and mournful descriptions give life to his story, and sublimely communicate the pain and struggle he goes through. Through his emotions, we gain a new understanding of his life, not the wild troublemaker the media portrays, but a boy. He was a boy—exploited by the world for fame—, trying to cope with his mother’s death at such a young age. The book follows his journey from a grief-stricken child to him eventually learning to let go of his pain and moving on as an adult. Harry’s tale is not only inspiring but wonderfully beautiful. 

The Spare also reveals the brutal truths behind fame. Harry shares his experience of the public harassment of his wife Meghan Markle on the news: “My face froze. My blood stopped. I was angry, but more: ashamed. My Mother Country? Doing this? To her? To us? Really?” The media kept harassing them even with the sister of London’s former mayor, saying that marrying Meghan might “dilute” the royal’s pale skin blood. Everyone was harassed by the press. Neighbors, past friends, past employers, and cousins were harassed for any “juicy” piece of information. It came to a breaking point when Meghan had suicidal thoughts. The hounding of the press—trailing you everywhere on motorcycles—or the everyday person pulling out a phone—surrounding you and bombarding you with photos— is a life for no one. How horrible would it be to live like this? Prince Harry’s memoir reimagines the world of celebrities, not one of glamor, but of lies, frustration, and agony. 

Spare is a one-of-a-kind story. It is a story of a man who lived four distinct lifetimes: rebel, prince, soldier, and husband. It is a story of unending grief and realized peace. It is a story of long-fought battles. It is a story of Prince Harry’s struggle. For all of these reasons, Spare is in every way fascinating, heart-breaking, and simply breathtaking.