Read this candid and full book review of Spare by Prince Harry for all the unfiltered, thought-provoking details about this bestselling memoir, including a quick summary, pros and cons, takeaways, an honest opinion on whether it’s worth it, frequently asked questions, and more.
Spare was one of the most anticipated books of its year, as it was written by one of the most famous and controversial people in the world (with a ghostwriter), and it offers a truly unprecedented look into the lives of British royalty.
I read this memoir as an audiobook, narrated by Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex himself, and I definitely recommend this format as a more immersive reading experience for such a personal book.
The purpose of this review of Spare by Prince Harry is not to give you a full recitation of the book’s contents, but rather to help you decide whether to read it yourself and/or to get more information about it if you did already read it.
Quick Summary (Without Spoilers)
In Spare, Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, gets personal on everything from his mom, the late Princess Diana, and the lifelong grief he experienced after her death, to the long road of events that led to his brother, Prince William, becoming his archnemesis; difficult conversations he had with his father, King Charles, and his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth throughout his lifetime; his time in the British military; his disdain for the British media; and of course, his controversial marriage to Meghan Markle and becoming a father to Archie and Lillibet.
The book is separated into three sections, the first of which is focused on his grief in his teenage years, the second of which is focused on his military service; and the third of which is focused on his wife.
Top Takeaways (WITH Spoilers)
To me, when it comes to memoirs, takeaways are those things that surprised me upon reading them, and those things that will likely stay with me long after reading the book. Here, I don’t want to offer too many takeaways so that, if you haven’t read the book, it isn’t spoiled for you, but I’ll note a few of the high points that have been floating around the media anyway.
First, I’d like to note that I’m an American around the age of Prince Harry and Prince William. I’ve never even been to England and thus, I can never begin to fully understand Prince Harry and/or the monarchy. I also never served in the military, lost a parent as a child, or experienced fame. These are all substantial life events that I don’t feel qualified to fully critique as a reader, or even as a human discussing pop culture. I just don’t think it’s fair for me to say what I would do, or what he should have done, but rather to just state what I perceived his main points were.
That being said, my top takeaway is that Spare is, first and foremost, a story of trauma, grief that went untreated for many years, and familial dysfunction that continues to this day.
For me, grief felt like the most constant theme, and Princess Diana’s life and death felt like a thread woven through each story told in the memoir. Beyond that, it’s a story of how fame affects childhood trauma and grief, and even beyond that, it’s a story of how royalty affects fame, childhood trauma, and grief.
One of the most shocking things I learned in Spare was Prince Harry’s belief that his mother was still alive after her death and would return to him. It was an absolutely heartbreaking view of childhood grief and the lack of proper support he needed to cope with her death. I can’t imagine anyone reading this book and NOT coming away with a deeper understanding of the impact that losing a parent has on a person.
There are a lot of very personal stories in Spare as well, from Prince Harry losing his virginity to getting frostbite on his private parts. This is something I truly never would have expected to read about in his memoir.
I don’t know why this surprised me so much, but the many nicknames of the “characters” in this memoir also really stuck with me. For example, Harry is also known as Henry, Harold, my darling boy, Haz, H, Spike, my love, and even more! Ever wonder what he calls his brother? It’s “Willy.”
And although I’ve heard a lot about Prince Harry’s relationship and marriage to Meghan Markle over the years, there were a few additional stories about her that will stick with me, including more details about their first date than I’d heard before, and the loving reaction she had towards him after the birth of their daughter, Lillibet. The reader also hears about the fight they had that caused him to seek therapy.
Indeed, the final major takeaway I had from Spare, is how therapy ultimately forever changed Harry’s relationships with grief, his family, his royal role, and his wife. It seems a family reconciliation is not out of the question, but Prince Harry seems firm on his view of his experiences and how much he’s worked to cope with them and evolve, and that his family should do the same if there is ever to be a reunion of one of the world’s most notorious families.
Pros and Cons
A book review of Spare by Prince Harry also wouldn’t be complete without pros and cons.
Spare by Prince Harry is Harry’s story in his words and his voice his story in his voice for the first time in a book format. This is especially important, as Harry takes great issue with how his family and the media have presented the details of his life publicly.
Spare is unlike any royal book or celebrity memoir published before. It’s simply shocking and unprecedented in hundreds of years of the royal reign. Besides being a window into Prince Harry’s life, it pulls back the curtain on the dark sides of royalty itself and the British royals more specifically.
Spare does contain some different stories and details than the average reader heard during his Oprah interview, Netflix special, etc., particularly about his life pre-Meghan. (However, some are repeated.)
The biggest critique I have of Spare is that it generally only discussed events that happened after Princess Diana’s death. I would have loved to learn more about Prince Harry’s experiences and perspective as a royal youth. I think it also would have provided more context about the impact Princess Diana had in Harry’s life as his mother, particularly for younger readers who didn’t experience her influence in real life.
There’s a lot of discussion about Prince Harry’s time in the military, which occasionally felt drawn out, especially since so little was said about his childhood. It seemed this part of Prince Harry’s life was more significant to him, but to the reader, it felt a bit unbalanced, especially since his childhood was so unique and public.
Spare was written with/by a ghostwriter, and it definitely felt ghostwritten to me, especially since Prince Harry mentioned his struggles with reading and writing. The book seemed to be better off as a work of art for the professional assistance he received, but it also created some distance with the reader, who expects a memoir to feel like an author’s own diary.
At times, I thought the writing was overly sensationalized, one-sided, and even mean. It felt to me like certain sentences (like one alluding to Prince William’s increasing baldness) were below the belt and/or unfairly pointed blame, likely to garner attention. To me, however, it felt unnecessarily rude in conveying Prince Harry’s perspective, especially since one of his main arguments is that he was treated unfairly by his family.
Is Spare by Prince Harry worth reading?
Yes, Spare by Prince Harry is a good book worth reading. While some of the high points have already been discussed in the media, Prince Harry’s position is that he wrote this book to share his own story in his own words, as he feels his family and the media have shared untruths and half-truths about him during his entire lifetime. For this reason alone, a figure as public as Prince Harry deserves to have readers experience his own version of events.
Beyond that, it’s a well-written, forthright, surprising, insightful, and entertaining book, and the audiobook version is narrated particularly well by Prince Harry himself, in his very familiar (and quite lovely) voice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Spare by Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, is a #1 bestseller, as well as a record breaker, selling 1.4 million copies in a single day, which is the largest first-day sales for any nonfiction book published by Penguin Random House.
Prince Harry’s book is called Spare in reference to a joke his father, King Charles, allegedly make upon his birth, calling Prince William the “heir” and Prince Harry the “spare.” It also implies that Harry has felt “less than” in the British royal family.
Spare is Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex’s memoir about his life, from the time his mother, Princess Diana died, until the present. It offers both his own perspective on the very public events of his lifetime, as well as critiques of the British royal family and the media.
The audiobook of Prince Harry’s memoir, Spare, has a run-time of 15 hours and 39 minutes when listened to at a speed of 1.0.
Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, narrates the audiobook for his memoir, Spare.
This book review of Spare by Prince Harry reiterated that this powerful and popular memoir was very much about family dysfunction, grief, and therapy amongst the backdrop of fame and royalty. It’s well-written by a beloved ghostwriter, and it’s worth reading in order to hear an account of a very famous person’s life in his own words for the first time.