The Bench receives a disappointing blow as critic dismisses Meghan Markle's book as a 'self-help' manual

The Bench by Meghan Markle has been criticized for its failure to appeal to children and lack of rhythm

The Bench by Meghan Markle has been criticized for its failure to appeal to children and lack of rhythm
(Image credit: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)

The Bench by Meghan Markle has finally hit shelves—and it looks like the verdict for the highly-anticipated children's book is in. 

The Bench by Meghan Markle has garnered some less-than-positive reviews in the wake of its release today, with one critic even panning it as a 'self-help manual' rather than a children's story. 

The Duchess of Sussex delighted fans last month with the announcement of the launch of her first book, which was penned in dedication to her Prince Harry and their toddler Archie. The Bench invites readers into the couple's lives as parents to a young child, documenting the special bond between a father and his son through the eyes of a mother. It also features plenty of vivid watercolor illustrations by Christian Robinson, an award-winning artist based in California. 

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like Meghan will be receiving any accolades for her writing debut any time soon. The Bench hasn't been met with the same excitement its launch announcement prompted, as critics begin to detect the faults that lace the 40-page story. The most egregious error, according to one review, is its failure to appeal to its target audience—children. 

book cover for the bench

(Image credit: Amazon)

"It reads as if it has been penned as a self-help manual for needy parents rather than as a story to entertain small kids," writes Alex O'Connell in the Times. 

The arts editor goes on to condemn Meghan for placing 'a therapy couch' built for adults at the center of the book, rather than creating a story of 'darkness and light' for children below the age of 7. 

"It lacks the crucial ingredients for a successful tale for this age group: a good story and basic rhythm," she argues. 

"Inevitably, spotting the roman à clef becomes the main point of interest for adult readers." 

This criticism reflects the hype surrounding the so-called hidden signs the duchess included in the book. One royal insider even suggested that Meghan Markle’s children's book sent a ‘coded message’ to the Queen, by presenting Prince Harry in his old military uniform. 

Not everyone was so harsh on The Bench though. 

The Evening Standard's Emily Phillips gave the book a much more gracious review, praising Meghan for her "soothing, loving" narrative style. She also admitted that the poignant tale, although "schmaltzy" at times, had pulled on her maternal heartstrings and even reduced her to tears in its final pages. 

"There I was blubbing, like the mother pictured looking out at the suspiciously Prince Harry-ish dad in his military uniform swinging his child high on an emotional return from duty," she writes. 

Ending on a "sentiment of togetherness", the book left Emily reaching for tissues and eagerly awaiting the sequel. "I for one am looking forward to reading what Meghan has in store for Lil Diana," she added. 

The Bench by Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, $13.20 | Amazon

The Bench by Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, $13.20 | Amazon

Meghan's first children's book The Bench is available to order in hardback now.

Emma Dooney
Lifestyle News Writer

Hailing from the lovely city of Dublin, Emma mainly covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health and wellness feature. Always up for a good conversation, she has a passion for interviewing everyone from A-list celebrities to the local GP - or just about anyone who will chat to her, really.

Emma holds an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London, and a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.