I think I have read all of Rachel Joyce’s books and have loved them all. She’s such a wonderful storyteller. I’ve got an advance copy of her latest, Maureen Fry and The Angel of The North, coming up on my reading list soon. Despite being on my bookshelf for ages, I hadn’t read Miss Benson’s Beetle. When browsing for a new audiobook recently, I spotted it on the Libby app and decided to listen to it. I have just listened to it all over the course of the past week so I think that tells you how much I enjoyed it!
About the book
It is 1950. In a devastating moment of clarity, Margery Benson abandons her dead-end 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 her unlikely pink travel suit, is not the companion Margery had in mind. And yet together they will be drawn into an adventure that will exceed every expectation. They will risk everything, break all the rules and, at the top of a red mountain, discover their best selves.
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, but it is also about what it means to be a woman and a tender exploration of a friendship that defies all boundaries.
As I say, I have listened to this all in one week which is pretty fast for me. Juliet Stephenson is the narrator and, as you’d expect, she is just brilliant. She really captured the personalities of both Miss Benson and Enid Pretty perfectly.
I was rooting for Miss Benson right from the start. I felt for her after a tragedy in her childhood which really shaped her life. She had settled for less than she should be and I was delighted for her when she turned her back on her unsatisfying life and decided to strike out to fulfil her dream and ambition to find a golden beetle in New Caledonia on the other side of the world. It was almost laughable how unprepared she was for this but with a stiff upper lip, she faced every challenge determinedly.
She was accompanied by the flamboyant Enid Pretty who could not be more different from Miss Benson if she tried! I loved Enid. She wasn’t exactly as she’d portrayed herself to Miss Benson and not just because she wasn’t, in fact, fluent in French! The growing friendship between the two women was a joy to read about. You’d never have thought they would have got on at all and under normal circumstances, they wouldn’t have been. But flung together and reliant on each other, they became the closest of friends.
The adventures these two had were beyond what they would have imagined. They coped with things they’d never thought they’d have to face. Some of them were really funny, some were dangerous, some were poignant and some had my heart in my mouth.
Miss Benson’s Beetle is another triumph from Rachel Joyce. I won’t say what happens of course but the epilogue was very satisfying, rather emotional conclusion to the story. It’s witty, uplifting, heart-warming and a really charming read. I loved 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 the New York Times bestseller Miss Benson’s Beetle, as well as a collection of interlinked short stories, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Her books have sold over 5 million copies worldwide, and been translated into thirty-six languages. Two are currently 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’ 2014.
Rachel has also written over twenty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Bronte novels. She lives with her family near Stroud.
You can follow Rachel on Instagram at rachelcjoyce, and find out more news at https://www.rachel-joyce.co.uk