I’ve held off doing this review for as long as I could, in the hopes that when I finally post it, the dust would have settled enough for the general public to look at Spare in a fair and objective manner.
I can only imagine how hard it must be to live your life under such intense public scrutiny. I remember how humiliated I felt once when one of my classmates read out some poems I’d written about my best enemy who also happened to be my secret crush (he was the Arnold to my Helga, please don’t judge me, I was thirteen). In front of the whole class. Which just so happened to include Arnold.
I remember that sinking feeling in my gut when I was called to task in front of my family because my uncle had somehow discovered that I’d lied about a school trip, all so that I could go on holiday with my one great love (and no, I don’t think its a coincidence that a lot of my bad decisions seem to have involved guys).
There isn’t a single one of us who can claim that we didn’t make mistakes, who can say with all honesty that they hadn’t been involved in a youthful indiscretion or two. We’ve all had a forbidden sip of alcohol before we’d reached the legal drinking age, and I can name a number of my friends who’d smoked cigarettes as a giant middle finger against their parents or some other figure of authority.
We’ve had our share of heartaches and heartbreaks. We’ve lost relatives, mourned loved ones, and either directly or indirectly have even come face to face with our own mortality,
The difference between us and Prince Harry is that during those times when we fucked up, it was not a matter of national interest.
It would not have made any difference to the Houses of Parliament if I stopped talking to my sister because she was being a bitch (which is every other day most weeks, and every day at certain times of the month, sorry Arlene).
And yet, when it became general knowledge that Harry and William had come to blows over their wives and royal duties (or was it the size of their royal apartments?), the world seemed to judge Harry for being so open about how he felt about it.
I read a lot of the reviews and write-ups that were published when Spare first came out. A lot of them, even the more sympathetic and impartial ones, seemed to say the same thing: check your privilege, Harry.
It’s like we’re saying he’s not allowed to talk about the things he’s been through because of his wealth and status.
I’m not gonna lie. I was one of those people who rolled my eyes when the Oprah interview came out, with Harry and Meghan insinuating that the senior members of the British Royal Family were racist. I mean, they probably were, but I was like: cry me a river.
At the time the nurses were fighting for fair pay and yet this whole “reveal” was front page news. It was all the morning shows could talk about. The fact that Meghan had difficulty getting a tiara for her wedding, and that she had an argument over some flower girl dress with the then Duchess of Cambridge, was somehow more important than the fact that the NHS was on its last legs.
I was livid.
However, the more I read Spare the more I realised how much of a double standard we have against celebrities and public figures, especially the Royal Family. After all, they don’t really serve a purpose. Some would even argue that they are outdated, a drain on our resources, a waste of taxpayer’s money (although they do wonders for the tourism industry).
So it’s almost like we’re saying we have the right to know every aspect of their lives as recompense for all that we give them. They have to justify their existence by giving us daily insight into their gilded lives, plus points if it happens to involve salacious gossip like infidelity and sibling rivalry,.
And when someone actually has the balls to call us out on our behaviour, we call foul.
Harry has chosen to tell his story the way he sees it.
As a writer, and a lover of stories, I find it difficult to condemn someone for wanting to tell his. Even if a part of me doubts his version of events, even if I find him, at times, incredibly repetitious and whiny, I still think he has the right to tell it, just like everybody else.
After all, what is truth anyway? Who is right, who is wrong? Isn’t history just a version of events as told from the point of view of the victor?
I am as surprised as anybody to find myself saying that my final verdict on this book is that its worth a read. Harry is a far more nuanced person than I ever could have imagined, and in 80% of the book (mostly before Meghan came into the picture) he came across sympathetic, likeable, and relatable.
Either that or the part of me that grew up on a steady diet of Disney movies is just naturally predisposed to forgive Prince Charming anything.
Finally though, I would just like to say that there is a family at the heart of this book, and this is what makes it almost unbearably intrusive. The systematic destruction of what was once a really close relationship, one that fell apart because of an accident of birth, was more painful to read about than Meghan Markle’s supposed struggles against the institution.
Primogeniture: it sucks.
Even as I write this, I am aware of my sister in the room next to me, practising her Japanese on Duolingo in preparation for our trip to Japan in April. It’s not every day that I thank my lucky stars that our relationship has evolved from the days when I wanted to kill her for taping over my Spice World album to what we have today, when sometimes hers is the only company I could bear to keep because everyone else is just so stupid.
In saying that, as the elder of the two, I’m probably William in this scenario. Who knows what secret resentment my sister could be harbouring against me?
I suppose I should just find solace in the fact that Arlene could not care less about going public and writing a memoir. The woman could hardly bring herself to post on social media.
I think I’ll be alright.