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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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4.9 out of 5
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  • Female Fry

    Rachel Joyce created an unforgettable character in Harold Fry and she’s done it here again with Margery Benson. It’s very easy to draw some parallels however this is very much a fresh story in its own right with not just one but two characters in the fullest sense of the word as Margery’s assistant Enid is as glorious as the title character. I think Margery’s background is so important to the story as it’s the motivation behind her travels whereas I like that we only have a small amount of background on Enid, which is drip fed, as her personality is what makes her such fun. The contrast between the two and the impact they have on each other as the story progresses is what makes this story the delight it is. As the story progressed I couldn’t work out whether I wanted them to discover the beetle or not as it just became less and less significant however II think Rachel Joyce took the story in just the right direction, I don’t think I’ve ever read a story about etymology before but it made for an intriguing adventure and Margery’s passion for it was joyous to read about. This is a gem of a novel.

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  • Magical

    Miss Benson's Beetle is an unconventional historical adventure novel set in the 1950s. It is a magical tale of two women, Margery Benson and Enid Pretty, who appear to have little in common, committing to a trip to New Caledonia in search of the mythic rumoured golden beetle. As they are drawn into an adventure that exceeds all expectations, an unlikely friendship blossoms. Rachel Joyce's characterisation of Margery and Enid was second to none. Unmarried Margery, aged 47, was working as a teacher, until she decided to leave after one humiliation too many. Her beloved father sparked a life long passion for etymology, particularly for the elusive golden beetle. For her part, chatterbox Enid, with her bright, yellow-blonde hair, her creams and potions, and her colourful outfits, thrived on being the centre of attention. Both women have their own reasons for leaving the country. In a truly wonderful story, quirky characters who both irritate and endear are in abundance. Also, the setting is so well delivered that the heat, humidity and foreignness are inescapable. As secrets are gradually revealed, wildly amusing moments are balanced with terrifically moving occasions of sadness. The two women's unlikely friendship is the main element of the story though other ingredients in this fabulous literary cocktail of emotions are grief and guilt, independence and self-worth. Talented author, Rachel Joyce definitely does not disappoint with Miss Benson's Beetle. I received a complimentary copy of this novel at my request from Random House, Transworld Publishers/ Doubleday via NetGalley. This review is my own unbiased opinion.

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  • Once again, Rachel Joyce does not disappoint

    Miss Benson’s Beetle is the third stand-alone novel by award-winning British author, Rachel Joyce. When, at the age of forty-six, Miss Margery Benson comes to truly understand the low regard in which she is held at the school where she teaches a class of ungrateful girls home economics, she makes a snap decision: she will fulfill the vow she made back in 1914 when she was a girl of ten. She places an ad in The Times: “Wanted. French- speaking assistant for expedition to other side of the world. All expenses paid.” The right applicant will help her find the Golden Beetle of New Caledonia, to prove its existence to the entomologists at the Natural History Museum. She’d been shown it in a book, Incredible Creatures, by her beloved father, just before he died: “’Do you think they’re real?’ she said. Her father nodded. ‘I have begun to feel comforted,’ he said, ‘by the thought of all we do not know, which is nearly everything.’ With that upside-down piece of wisdom, he turned another page.” The favoured candidate pulls out at the last minute, leaving Margery no choice but to accept the one she considered most unsuitable, Enid Pretty, a dyslexic, over-made-up, endlessly chatty bottle-blonde with a talent for charming her way through obstacles (sometimes via cash and cleavage). An observer describes her as a trickster. Enid, keeping a tight hold on her red valise, is very eager to join in Margery’s expedition, but clearly harbouring a secret or two. “Enid was still anathema to Margery, like trying to read a map upside down. She rushed through life as if she was being chased. Even things whose whole point was slowness, like waking up, for instance, after a heavy night’s sleep, she took at a lick.” Yet, when Margery really needs her help, she freely gives it. Margery and Enid arrive, but will they find their beetle? “She hadn’t a clue why she was lying in a hammock on the other side of the world, already half crippled, looking for a beetle that had never been found – she could die out here, under these alien stars, and no one would know.” And quite unbeknownst to then both, a rejected candidate, a former POW with a severe case of PTSD is hot on their trail, his intentions a little vague. What a wonderful story Joyce gives the reader! Quirky characters who can irritate and endear; a setting so well rendered that the heat, humidity and foreignness are palpable; and several secrets gradually revealed. Laugh-out-loud (almost slapstick) moments are balanced with lump-in-the-throat occasions and wise words: “We are not the things that happened to us. We can be what we like”. Central to the story is the unlikely friendship that forms: “The differences between them – all those things she’d once found so infuriating – she now accepted. Being Enid’s friend meant there were always going to be surprises” but also explored are grief and guilt, independence and self-worth. Once again, Rachel Joyce does not disappoint. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Random House UK Transworld Publishing.

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  • Time in isolation

    A great read, nothing predictable in the story, sad but very lovable characters.

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  • Joyful read

    I really enjoyed reading this, looked forward to the adventures that lay ahead within each chapter.

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