It is the royal book of the year (at least when looking at the amount of publicity): “Finding Freedom. Harry and Meghan and the making of a modern royal family” by royalty journalists Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand.
In July 2020 I ordered the book at Amazon, but delivery was so slow that I decided to cancel my order the next month, about two weeks after the book had come out. Already in the weeks before 11 August the magazines and newspapers were full of stories about the book, some even seemed to know what was in the book without even having seen it.
I am not fond of books that cause a lot of sensation and publicity. Often they are a disappointment. Late September I finally managed to get the book – in Dutch – via the library. I didn’t necessarily want to write a book review, but some people were so curious that I decided to write something about it after all. I wonder how biased I was about the book already beforehand, but I always read a book in a critical way when I review it. And I do have a few things to say about this book, even when others have done it before me.
- The book is clearly written for people who know who Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex are (as a friend pointed out: even mainly for fans). From the first page they are named Harry and Meghan. No proper introduction of the couple, so people who don’t know who they are won’t be attracted to the book at all. Therefore it also hardly creates a distance, so it reads almost like a novel, instead of a proper true story or biography. Although I must admit that it reads pretty well. I was surprised not to find the word Markle in the book until I had passed page 100, and Harry is nearly nowhere called Prince either. Titles are not too often used in the book anyway, except for for the Queen.
- Are there a lot of new details in the book? I don’t think so. Having followed the media reports about Meghan and Harry pretty closely since the start I don’t feel that there is anything that I didn’t know, unless it might be tiny details.
- The book concentrates on what happened in the media, so a lot of things are missing, or are hardly mentioned, like her first marriage, her clothing collections in Canada. Even the chronology therefore sometimes has a strange order, and seems to have been changed when it was better for the story. “Together: Our Community Cookbook”, much celebrated, is only mentioned after the christening of Archie for example. There is hardly mentioning of the couple’s many activities, unless they were criticized for something.
- It also means that several articles receive far more attention than they should receive. Some of these articles I never thought to be true anyway, like that Meghan supposedly was a vegetarian and didn’t want Harry to take place in the Boxing Day hunt 2017, or that they deliberately came one hour late for their January 2018 visit to Wales (as known the British rail was late, not the couple), coloured nail polish. The authors actually do write that these articles were bizarre, which they were, but through the book they get quite a bit of attention once again. And it is funny to see that while the book criticize these articles from especially The Sun and Daily Mail, on the other hand the authors have made use of a lot of the articles that appeared in these media and others over the years extensively. But I surely agree that these articles were damaging and that lots of criticism was not correct at all.
- The book contains lots of whining and negativity, which overpowers the whole book. It seems to have been written mainly with the intention to counter rumors. The book just misses objectivity. It is only about the criticism, and doesn’t mention any other side of the story than the one from Harry and Meghan. I really find that a pity. I would have enjoyed it a lot better if it had been a good and honest biography about the first four years of their relationship.
- Interesting there is really nothing new about Archie’s christening, which was a private event of course. Clearly nobody wanted to talk about it. But as godparents one can read the names of Isabel May and Tiggy Pettifer in the text before the part about the christening.
- Hardly any sources are being named. That they were able to speak but lots of people, quite close to the royal couple, is almost only clear when they write about what Meghan said or thought about certain things. But I sometimes wondered about things: was it reality or did the writers just needed to combine stories?
- I did like the few pages of colour photos of the couple in the middle of the book.
A few tiny mistakes I found, and I am not certain if it was the translator or the writers who made them, as I didn’t see the English version.
While Meghan’s first marriage to Trevor Engelson is situated at the Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, on 10 September 2011 in the media, this appears to be the wedding celebration only. Court documents, as Radar Online wrote – with documentation – already in November 2016, say the couple got married on 16 August 2011, separated on 5 July 2013 and that she filed for divorce on 7 August 2013 in Los Angeles.
And did the English version really say that Trooping the Colour 2019 took place on 8 July? The Dutch did, and it actually was 8 June 2019.
Would I recommend the book? Not really. I have read far better ones, although of course not yet on this topic. Beforehand I haven’t read a lot of positive reviews. And although it wasn’t difficult reading the book, I was pretty disappointed and actually glad that I haven’t spend money on it.