Miss Benson’s Beetle

Miss Benson's BeetleMiss Benson's Beetle
by Rachel Joyce
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 0857521993
Publication Date: June 11, 2020
Pages: 389
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday

Margery Benson's life ended the day her father walked out of his study and never came back. Forty years later, abandoning a dull job, she advertises for an assistant. The successful candidate is to accompany Margery on an expedition to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. Enid Pretty is not who she had in mind. But together they will find themselves drawn into an adventure that exceeds all Margery's expectations, eventually finding new life at the top of a red mountain.

This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story and it is also a tender exploration of a friendship between two unforgettable women that defies all boundaries.

My rating is not an accurate portrayal of the quality of the book, my rating is an accurate portrayal of my enjoyment of the book.

I say this because it’s not the book I thought it was going to be.  That’s entirely on me, because I’ve read another of her books and I should have known better.  But I got sucked into the summary about the expedition in search of a golden beetle, and allowed myself to be seduced by images of New Caledonia, beetle hunting, and elusive orchids (which depend on the golden beetle, of course).

This was not that book.  This is a wonderfully written book about deeply flawed and lonely people who come together under the guise of searching for the golden beetle.  Also motherhood, mental breakdowns and devastating nutritional deficiencies.  There’s a lot of baggage in this book and very little of it is related to the beetle expedition.

They do make it to New Caledonia and they do hunt for beetles; those moments were the best parts for me, but they were all too brief.  For the rest of it, I just kept thinking this was Thelma and Louise Get on a Ship.

This book is a lesson in the power of titles, covers and summaries.  I have a friend who wouldn’t look twice at this book, and it is perfect for her; if I can get her to read it, she’s going to love it.  Whereas I, who thought everything about the ‘wrappings’ of the book screamed “this is the book for you!”, found it to be not at all what I expected and was a little disappointed.

That does not mean it’s not a good book; it’s an excellently written book, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a book about emotionally broken people persevering and finding their happiness.  It’s just not the book I was looking for.

2 thoughts on “Miss Benson’s Beetle”

  1. Yeah, I abandoned this one about halfway, because “it’s not what it says on the tin.” And I did not actually like any of the characters. Supposedly funny, but I didn’t find it so.

    1. I agree there was not a jot of humor. I started out disliking the characters but I have to admit by the end I warmed to them marginally. I still can’t say I liked them, but they were redeemed by their friendship with each other.

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