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.
Am so happy to be on today’s Blog Tour for Miss Benson’s Beetle as it’s one of the most delightful books I’ve ever read, never mind in 2020, but ever. It’s wonderful to be writing about a book that you want everyone reading your review to rush out and buy and it’s so easy to break out the superlatives when talking about a book I’ve enjoyed as much as this one. I love blogging on Random Things Tours due to the diverse and eclectic range of books that I’m introduced to and I was delighted to be invited on this one as I loved Harold Fry so much.
This gorgeous book cover is wrapped around a warm and uplifting read that will genuinely draw you into its story and make you feel part of Margery and Enid’s world as they join together to embark upon a journey that will entertain, surprise and delight you in equal measure
Margery Benson was a fantastic character that you can totally believe in. When you have a passion like she does, then anything seems possible, it’s an easy sentiment to connect with – I’m sure lots of you will have had that feeling when you wonder what would happen if you really went for it and followed your dreams. Her unlikely partnership with pink and pretty Enid with her unfeasible amount of luggage and plenty of metaphorical baggage to boot, makes for a fantastic reading experience with plenty of ups and downs and altercations along the way. At times you won’t know whether to laugh or cry – but one thing you will definitely do is keep turning those pages!
The way that the two women connect through their trials and tribulations on their great adventures in entomology makes for great reading and the way that the snippets of Enid’s past start to pop up in the narrative as you read, allowing us a further insight into some of her intriguing shenanigans is again one of the highlights of this book. Rachel Joyce has an unparalleled talent for creating characters that feel absolutely real as you are travelling with them and their secrets, hopes and dreams are uncovered. It is like a vintage version of Thelma and Louise as this unlikely pairing set off on their adventures and discover that it is often the way that our deepest bonds are forged when we least expect it to. I love novels that explore female friendship and I think that this quote sums it up perfectly:
“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. However close they were it didn’t entitle her to Enid’s memories and neither did it allow her to be part of Enid’s life before they met. Being a friend meant accepting those unknowable things. It was by placing herself side by side with Enid that Margery had finally begun to see the true outline of herself. And she knew it now: Enid was her friend.”
Their surprising and enduring friendship is one of the best things about this book as the two women see that their different life experiences and perspectives means that their friendship is a stronger one due to all of these differences . You really feel their relationship bloom – drawn together by the pursuit of the golden beetle and ending up with a golden friendship to boot. Be warned, this is an unexpectedly touching read that will move you subtly as you really start to care about this eclectic pair and their different pathways to happiness and fulfilment. We very definitely don’t all have to be the same to get along with one another – and Enid and Margery’s relationship proves that even the oddest of couples can complete one another once a friendship is given the chance to flourish.
Rachel Joyce writes books from the heart, and it shows. All of her books present the readers with unforgettable characters who stay with you for a long time. I still think of Queenie all the time and I’m sure that these two ladies will also take up a firm place in my reading heart. I would love to see this on screen and think it would be a perfect period piece that would whisk us back to the 1950s with these two lady adventurers. Buy yourself a copy here and start your own journey with them this summer! This is definitely a contender for my favourite read of 2020 and I can’t stop recommending it to people
I didn’t think I could love it as much as Harold Fry or Queenie, but I’m happy to be proved wrong and am recommending this warm, feel-good read to just about everyone! Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me onto the blog tour and giving me the chance to be part of Miss Benson’s story.
Make sure you go back and check out all the rest of these fab bloggers and their reviews!
‘Exciting, moving and full of unexpected turns… surely this is the one that will propel the intrepid Joyce off the long and shortlists into prizewinning territory.’THE TIMES
‘Brilliant and elegant and wise…powerful and moving…I can’t recommend it enough.’ JOANNA CANNON
‘A beautiful portrayal of female friendship in all its frailties, contradictions and strengths.’ RAYNOR WINN
‘The perfect escape novel for our troubled times.’ PATRICK GALE
Writer On The Shelf
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’ 2014. 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 roles for the RSC, the National Theatre and Cheek by Jowl. She lives with her family in Gloucestershire.