Miss Benson’s Beetle
By Rachel Joyce
Rated: 5 stars *****
Happy Publication Day to Rachel Joyce. Miss Benson’s Beetle is available to buy from today. I must say it is an incredible book that is so uplifting. I absolutely loved every inch it from start to finish. It’s a book I absolutely savored and I know the characters won’t leave my mind in a hurry. The sheer courage and determination and friendship shown through them as they pursue their dreams is fantastic!
This is a book I highly recommend. It is absolutely wonderful and such a delight to read. It’s pretty hard to put down, with its adventure and characters you don’t want to leave too quickly.
Below is the blurb, my full review and a bit about the author.
I thank Isabella Ghaffari Parker (Izzie) for sending me an e-copy and Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me onto the blog tour.
It is 1950, two unlikely women set off on a hare-brained adventure to the other side of the world to try and find a beetle, and in doing so discover friendship and how to be their best of themselves. This is quintessential Joyce: at once poignant and playful, with huge heart and the same resonance, truth and lightness of touch as her phenomenally successful debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.
Britain, post Second World War. In a moment of madness Margery Benson abandons her sensible job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. She is going to travel to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. Enid Pretty, in pink hat and pompom sandals, is not the companion she
had in mind. But together they will find themselves drawn into an adventure that exceeds all expectations. They must risk everything, break all the rules, but at the top of a red mountain they will discover who they truly are, and how to be the best of themselves.
This is a novel that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story but it is also about what it means to be a woman and a tender exploration of a friendship that defies all boundaries.
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce is an exquisitely uplifting novel that I just loved. It’s one of those books that can be read over and over.
This is about keeping going in the face of adversity. It brings with it a whole lot of emotions. It will make you smile because it is up lifting, laugh with the humour and feel the pain of heartbreak that’s been caused to some of the characters. Pleasure and joy are the overriding emotions. The book feels like you’re with the characters every step of the way and have a desire to be.
It’s also a beautiful book about friendship occurring, even when it seems so unlikely as it does with Margery and Enid.
It all began when Margery Benson when she was 10 years old, fell in love with a beetle. The book then moves to 1950 and she is a school teacher and she remembers the elusive Golden Beetle from her father’s book of ‘Incredible Creatures’ and wants to go to New Caledonia to seek the species out. There are quite a few problems with this. She doesn’t speak French, hasn’t got a passport, not got enough funds and it might kill her and she was a lady. It is however funny that the thing she does know, is how to kill a beetle… So all in all, it makes you wonder how an expedition of such magnitude, that’s been building up in her mind could ever happen.
I do love that these potential issues, including Margery Benson’s social awkwardness, do not pose as a barrier for her, as she advertises for a travel companion. She has great determination within her.
Margery (Miss Benson) and unlikely fellow traveller – Enid Pretty, who she chooses from the applicants to the advertisement, are such great characters. They do however just seem such chalk and cheese as they rub each other up the wrong way at times and, and yet here they are off on an adventure of a life-time on a boat from London, still enduring rationing from the after affects of war, to Australia and then it’s off to New Caledonia.
Margery is more matter of fact and has a different type of energy to the talkative Enid who would rather stay up dancing the night away, in-comparison to Margery who wants to study and talk about beetles and is much more pragmatic. They both have ambitions and that is for Miss Benson, to find a Golden Beetle and Enid Pretty to have a baby and I found myself rooting for both characters as they come closer together.
The pair end up in Australia and there are issues surrounding luggage, the British Consul and visas. New Caledonia sounds beautiful and scenic. They have a beetle to find and their resolve of being a team with grit and determination is admirable as it grows stronger than ever before. As they travel together, they discover, not only about the places they go to, but also more about themselves.
There’s also, Mundic, who is seen here and there, throughout the book. He is a stowaway who has had a troubled time and is a bit of a creepy, sinister, character; following Miss Benson with much more than a heightened interest, right to an unexpected climax.
I have absolutely thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. No doubt about it!
About the Author
Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Music Shop and a collection of interlinked short stories, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Her books have been translated into thirty -six languages and two are in development for film.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Rachel was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards ‘New Writer of the Year’ in December 2012 and shortlisted for the ‘UK Author of the Year’ 201 4. Rachel was a Costa prize judge and University Big Read author in 2019.
She has also written over twenty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Bronte novels. She moved to writing after a long career as an actor, performing leading role for the RSC, the National Theatre and Cheek by Jowl. She lives with her family in Gloucestershire.