The Bench review: the Duchess of Sussex’s semi-literate vanity project leaves Harry holding the baby – The Telegraph

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Poor Prince Harry. He’s moved half way across the Earth, leaving behind everything he has ever known, and for what? A humble bench in a garden, according to the opening line of The Bench (Puffin, £12.99), his wife’s debut book for children, published today and addressed throughout its 34 pages to him.

“This is your bench,” it begins, accompanied by a watery illustration of a man with ginger hair sitting on a bench looking adoringly into the eyes of a baby. “Where life will begin/For you and our son.”

Leaving aside that unfortunate image – did the Sussex’s family life really begin on a bench? Surely not – the connotations are clear. Poor Harry’s role in this marriage is to sit on his bench holding the baby while Meghan gets on and conquers the world, one act of compassion at a time.

The Bench, published worldwide today and apparently based on a poem Meghan wrote for Harry on Father’s Day, is presented as a story for children. But it’s nothing of the sort, not least since it’s not a story. Rather it’s a series of imperatives disguised as loving verse in which Meghan offers words of wisdom to Harry (represented throughout as a sort of racially inclusive, everyman paternal figure) and by implication to the rest of us, on how to handle the tricky business of loving a child.

Each page consists of a generic “bonding” moment between father and son on a different bench (park benches, garden benches, random grey benches), illustrated by Christian Robinson’s amazingly benign water colours and accompanied by a couple of tender lines of advice. So, after a hard day tending the chickens, our father figure Harry will “rest” on his bench and “see the growth of our boy”.

 

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