‘Spare,’ by Prince Harry: Book Review

Mired in a “red mist” of grief and anger, the prince self-medicates at first with candy and then, as the hated tabloids report with varying degrees of accuracy, alcohol, weed, cocaine, mushrooms and ayahuasca. (More mildly he tries magnesium supplements, and I’m not sure anyone needs to know that this loosened his bowels at a friend’s wedding.)

Along with Harry’s deployment to Afghanistan — where, he observes, “you can’t kill people if you think of them as people” — he escapes repeatedly to Africa, whose lions seem less threatening than the journalistic predators at home. In one of the book’s cringier moments, he writes that Willy, who calls him Harold though his given name is Henry, stamps his foot over choosing the continent as a cause. “Africa was his thing,” Harry explains, mimicking his brother’s petulant tone. “I let you have veterans, why can’t you let me have African elephants and rhinos?”

Cattily he notes Willy’s “alarming baldness, more advanced than my own,” while dinging the Princess of Wales for being slow to share her lip gloss. Candidly he shows the then-Prince Charles doing headstands in his boxer shorts and his family’s charade of an annual performance review: the Court Circular.

Like its author, “Spare” is all over the map — emotionally as well as physically. He does not, in other words, keep it tight. Harry is frank and funny when his penis gets frostbitten after a trip to the North Pole — “my South Pole was on the fritz” — leaving him a “eunuch” just before William marries Kate Middleton. In an odd feat of projection, he gives the groom an ermine thong at the reception, then applies to his own nether regions the Elizabeth Arden cream that his mother used as lip gloss — “‘weird’ doesn’t really do the feeling justice” — and worries that “my todger would be all over the front pages” before finding a discreet dermatologist.

Therapy, in which he claims William refuses to participate, and a whiff of First by Van Cleef & Arpels, help Harry learn to cry, unlocking a stream of repressed recollections of Diana, and that’s when even the most hardened reader might herself weep. Charles’s own scent, Dior’s Eau Sauvage, and his marriage to Camilla, leave him relatively cold.

And yet when his father advises of the unrelenting and often racist press coverage of Harry’s union to Meghan — “Don’t read it, darling boy” — it’s difficult not to agree. The prince claims to have a spotty memory — “a defense mechanism, most likely” — but doesn’t appear to have forgotten a single line ever printed about him and his wife, and the last section of his tell-all degenerates into a tiresome back-and-forth about who’s leaking what and why. Maybe a little more Faulkner and less Fleet Street would be helpful here?

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