With the author reportedly receiving a $20 million advance on his book, ‘Spare,’ it was expected that sales of the book were going to be significant.
Since the book’s release, sales have been top-of-the-charts and opinions on it are more divided than I’ve ever seen on a new release before. Autobiographies rarely feature in this column but given the abundance of headline and content leaks, ‘Spare’ is this week’s book.
Divided into three sections, the autobiography deals chronologically with Prince Harry’s childhood, his decade in the army, and his marriage.
The early part of the book paves the way significantly for the events seen in the past few years, with a young 12-year-old boy being told that his mother is dead. He recalls with vivid detail offering condolences to heartbroken members of the public as they lined the streets, the pin-drop silence during the long walk behind the coffin, and the tears which he was unable to shed.
The inability to shed these tears appears to be in part due to his role in public service where the Windsor family must remain stoic and constant in the public eye, but also, more uncomfortably, due to the fact that for much of his younger years, Harry believed that his mother was not dead but had escaped from the rat-race of public life and paparazzi attention.
During this time, he was attending Eton and spending holiday periods away on safari in Botswana and other regions. There is a temptation to eyeroll at this because the reality for most readers will not be one which involved Eton College or safari holidays, yet, comparison is unfair in this case, because this is the life into which he was born.
The details are deeply revealing and intimate. Harry’s near constant reference to the idea of the ‘Heir’ and the ‘Spare,’ where his father and his brother could never travel on the same flight for fear of both dying, but Harry could travel on whichever he chose, suggests a resentment for his place in life.
He bore the term ‘naughty’ Royal with gritted teeth, amid confessions of smoking weed and drinking alcohol at a young age.
What emerges from most of the book, if truth be told, is a boy who needed more than what he received. He craved affection and love, he reached for a stronger connection with his older brother, and he details that he spent much of his life in denial of his mother’s death, never truly grieving which never truly believing her death.
He details his life for the remainder of the book, returning time and again to his sense of striving to find a place in life and aching for the support of family to do so. He puts himself in the direct firing line of danger, determined to make a difference, in many ways to feel something.
Each time, it returns to his sibling rivalry, his feeling of being an outsider, and the damage that was done at a young age when he lost his mother. Since the release of the book, there have been many alleged inaccuracies raised, but given his admission that much of that time is a blank wall, I can overlook that when reading.
There are details in this book which should never have seen the light of day, not because Harry is a member of a prominent family, but because the sibling rivalry can come across as petty and commonplace.
However, and this is a big however, for the last few years we have seen Prince Harry leave England with his wife and child, claiming significant safety concerns.
It is impossible not to be reminded of his mother’s unofficial book, her BBC interview, and her desire to leave the chaos of the headlines for the same reasons.
It is a damning insight into the inner workings of the British Royal family and if this was my family, I would be none too pleased with the level of detail given. In this case, I do believe less is more, but Prince Harry has finally had a chance to say what he wanted to say, on his own terms.
Dymphna Nugent reviews for The Irish Examiner, The Irish Times, and the Waterford News & Star