Author William Kuhn’s charming and touching debut, Mrs Queen Takes The Train (2012), sees an unhappy Queen Elizabeth II taking an unscheduled and unchaperoned train journey to visit the real, unscripted Great Britain and cure what ails her. And readers get to see the usually very royal queen as a human being.
In his follow-up Prince Harry: Boy To Man, Kuhn again turns to the Windsors for inspiration. This time, the protagonist is the titular Prince Harry, subject of many fantasies. And Harry is having a hard time.
He desperately wants to mourn the death of his mother, Princess Diana, but can’t with the media following his every move. While the press is open to painting a sympathetic portrait, they easily slip back into the habit of showing Harry in a negative light.
The media had long portrayed Harry as a rich, dimwitted, fun-loving individual who once attended a Halloween party in a Nazi uniform. Thus at the age of 23, Harry finds himself rather lost in life.
Eager to remedy this situation, Harry gets himself commissioned to the front lines of the US-led “war against terrorism” in Afghanistan in 2007. While he’s eager to be one of the guys in the barracks, the other soldiers view Harry as a hindrance.
Due to his royal status, they have to protect him at all times, and give him less demanding or demeaning tasks – and they make their dislike clear. In response as well as a form of self-protection, Harry acts the fool, hoping his antics will win him a modicum of liking.
Another plot thread is Cindy Reed, an ambitious young TV reporter who disguises herself as a man so she can embed herself in the prince’s unit. The potential romance between Harry and Cindy serves as dramatic tension and a canvas for a comedy of errors, as they are both striving to win the respect of their peers in their professions.
The combination of Harry’s frustrations, Cindy’s deceit, and being stuck in a desert where bullets and rockets make frequent appearances conspire to thoroughly unnerve Harry. Will he give up his army life and return to the comforts of royal life, or will he stick it out to prove to himself and the world that he can be a real grownup?
Followers of the British royal family would know that in the last decade since he first went to Afghanistan, Harry has earned the respect of his peers and the public for his very effective charitable works. Kudos to Kuhn then for not dwelling on a known outcome and instead focusing his novel on Harry’s struggle for acceptance.
As in his previous book, in Prince Harry: Boy To Man Kuhn has deconstructed a public figure and injected him with a sense of humanity, allowing readers to see glimpses of ordinary everyday-ness behind the stiff public facade. Status and wealth aside, members of the royal family are just like the rest of us, posits the author.
A natural storyteller, Kuhn’s writing is totally accessible and filled with British idioms (the American Kuhn is a self-confessed Anglophile), pulling readers into the world he has created, making us curious to know more and to root for Harry, who in Kuhn’s hands is just an ordinary bloke who likes beer, women and having a good time.
Rather than being pro-monarchy, Prince Harry: Boy To Man is a lovely, touching and comical tale about a young man named Harry who just happens to be a prince in one of the oldest monarchies in the world and fifth in line to the throne.
Those who loved Mrs Queen Takes The Train will enjoy Prince Harry: Boy To Man. It’s an enjoyable and recommended read, even for those who are anti-establishment.
Prince Harry: Boy To Man
Author: William Kuhn
Publisher: Montgomery Street Press, contemporary fiction