When I started reading this, I was pretty sure I’d read it before or had seen parts of it on the internet. My memory felt foggy, but I had such a strong feeling that a friend had sent a link to the full thing on the internet years ago and I’d seen most of it.
Whether or not I did, I’m glad that I now own a copy of the book and enjoyed my time with it when I read it for the Magical Readathon.
Park Bench by Christophe Chabouté (illus.), transl. from the French by Jonathan Cape
With his masterful illustration style, bestselling French creator-storyteller Chabouté (Alone, Moby-Dick) explores community through a common, often ignored object: the park bench.
From its creation, to its witness to the fresh ardor of lovers, the drudgery of businessmen, the various hopes of the many who enter its orbit, the park bench weathers all seasons. Strangers meet at it for the first time. Paramours carve their initials into it. Old friends sit and chat upon it for hours. Others ignore the bench, or (attempt to) sleep on it at night, or simply anchor themselves on it and absorb the ebb and flow of the area and its people.
Christophe Chabouté’s mastery of the visual medium turns this simple object into a thought-provoking and gorgeously wrought meditation on time, desire, and the life of communities all across the planet. This could be a bench in my hometown or yours—the people in this little drama are very much those we already recognize. (Goodreads)
I have a soft spot for silent picture books and graphic novels, which relay their stories without words relying entirely on the illustrations. I guess it’s because I had such a great introduction to such books through Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, which I HIGHLY recommend.
Park Bench is a silent contemporary graphic novel that was originally published in France, and as the title states, it’s about a park bench. It’s like a slice-of-life, almost, because we briefly peek into the lives of the people and animals who use the bench and the area around it, and also the things they bring to and leave there.
We see a stray spotted dog that marks the bench whenever it passes by, a suited-up business man who seems in a rush when he passes the bench, a group of elderly ladies who meet at the bench, teenagers who hang out there, a homeless man who uses it as a place to rest, and the policeman who often runs him away from the bench. We see the bench and the people who use it change over time, and we follow the bench into retirement to see what happens to it afterward and also how its new replacement is used.
Despite how simple the story seems, this was a great read. It’s a sweet story, heartwarming and poignant, about how objects connect us as a community and the various ways people interact and communicate, even through the things they leave behind — in a few scenes, we see someone leave something at the bench that another person comes along and decides to take or use in some way.
It was a great read, and I’m glad I finally took it off my shelves to try.
The book is thick, about 328 pages, but the entire story is relayed through the illustrations. Because of that, it is a quick read that you can complete in a few minutes, but I think it’s worth slowing down rather than speeding through the book to pay attention to how certain characters’ situations unfold and the subtle differences from scene to scene that may seem alike.
The art style is straightforward and doesn’t have much flourishes to it. It sticks to conveying what’s happening as clearly as possible so that the viewer pays attention to what’s happening rather than the art itself. The panels flow smoothly with nothing fancy about their layout, and the illustrations are also all done in black and white, so the art really tries not to call attention to itself.
Another silent book that I had a wonderful reading experience with. I also own Chabouté Alone, which I might read in the new year.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I think it’s worth having on the shelves. I also think it’s one that you’ll notice something new in whenever you reread it.
If you like this, you might like…
Here by Richard McGuire (illus.)
It’s about the passing of time and how things and people change over time. To do so, it focuses on a section of a room and shows how that part of the room has changed and was used over the years: the past, even in prehistoric times, the present, and even the future.