Love him or hate him, you know his face and name, and you know numerous intimate facts about his life—though you may not know whether they are true or not. No matter who you are, this man’s fame and notoriety is such that, no matter who you are, you know him, or at least you think you do. It’s Prince Harry.
I wasn’t going to read Spare, Prince Harry’s memoir, published this year. But I’m very glad I did. The book opened my eyes to a world I thought I knew, but didn’t. Prince Harry calls it the “fishbowl” of being royal. Over and over, he points out that being a prince isn’t as fairy-tale wonderful as it sounds. He’s had a rough life. And he tells his story well.
Or rather, his ghostwriter tells it well. I decided to read Spare because, as I wrote in my previous blog post Prince Harry’s Ghostwriter, the ghostwriter, J. R. Moehringer, wrote a New Yorker article that was so good that I decided I had to read more of his work.
Spare is a beautifully told story about a young man struggling to cope with the loss of his mother and the incessant paparazzi and press that swirls around him at all times. It’s about his quest to make a life for himself while, at every turn, he and everyone he loves is being stalked and lied about, for all the world to see and hear.
“My father had begged me to stop thinking about the press, to not read the papers. . . .”
But for much of the book, Harry can’t stop himself from reading. This only makes him agitated and angry. And of course his mother’s death can be directly tied to the greed of the paparazzi, which only makes every photo flash, every lie in the papers, that much more galling to him.
As I read, I realized that this is a book about trauma. Deep-seated, unspeakable trauma.
Can you imagine what your life would be like if every mistake you ever made—and even mistakes you didn’t—was broadcast to the entire world for the purpose of their facile, mean-spirited entertainment?