Monday, May 29, 2023

book report

Today is Memorial Day, so it's appropriate to report that I've read a memoir by a military veteran, though he is still alive. And a memoir of a military veteran is what it turned out mostly to be, to my surprise as none of the immense publicity that this book received on publication indicated that this would be its emphasis.

The book is Spare by Prince Harry. After much frustration wondering what his role in life would be, and feeling that he lacked the brainpower of his father and brother, Harry finds his metier when he joins the Army, and belies any demurral about his brainpower by plunging into discussion of the highly technical requirements of the job he did in combat, which was basically air traffic controller for air raids. (That way he could be hands-on while not risking being captured by enemies who'd love to nab a Prince.) I skipped over a lot of this part.

Much of the rest of the book is fragmented and skips around a lot. Part of the problem is that Harry claims to remember little of his earlier childhood, and almost all the material about his mother is delivered in the context of him remembering her after she was already dead. Again to my surprise, he does not depict himself and his brother as ever having been very close, though later in the book he claims that they once had been. The period when Harry and William and Kate formed a tight trio who were seen doing charitable work all over the place? Hardly a mention in this book. He says he liked Kate, at least initially, but did not feel he had any role in the couple's life, not even as an uncle to their kids. By contrast he seems to have gotten on well with his father for most of this period, despite the latter's renowned coldness.

He calls his brother Willy. No naughty-word implications. His brother calls him Harold. No explanation. He calls his father Pa. His father calls him "darling boy." He calls the Queen "Granny." He hadn't known the story of how Princess Margaret was prevented from marrying a divorced man until it comes up in relation to his own impending marriage.

The book becomes grimmer as it goes along. Part of this is due to Harry's realization that he's suffering from PTSD stemming from his mother's death. But it also comes from various promising romantic relationships foundering over media persecution. Even Meghan barely survived it (literally: she attempted suicide at one harrowing point), and their relationship prospered mostly through Harry's determination that she really was the one for him. Total lack of support from palace officials is the continuing theme here. The strangest event is a meeting (I'm recalling this from memory of my reading) with several family members including the Queen and some palace officials. Harry describes the nightmares he and Meghan had to go through. Others say, you should have asked for help. Harry says, I did. I sent tons of desperate e-mails. The Queen looks at the officials and says, well? The officials blandly reply they never got them. And that seems to be the end of it.

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