Miss Benson’s Beetle, by Rachel Joyce
Published by Black Swan, 1st April 2021
Genre: Historical fiction
Margery Benson is a middle-aged spinster, with no living family, working a dead-end job teaching ungrateful children about domestic science in the aftermath of WWII. In a blinding moment of clarity, she quits her job and decides to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. She will journey to New Caledonia, on the other side of the world, in search of a rare golden beetle that may or may not exist.
But she cannot hope to do all of this alone. She will need an assistant for her expedition! Enid Pretty is probably the last person Margery would want accompanying her, but she is her only option. In her vibrant pink travelling suit, Enid could not be more different from dowdy and dumpy Miss Benson, and the two women do not exactly hit it off. But when faced with circumstances neither of them could have imagined, both women discover untapped strengths within themselves and a very unlikely friendship.
What a charming and really funny book! I love the characters that Rachel Joyce has created here and I could picture them immediately. In my mind’s eye, Miss Benson is somewhere between Miss Trunchbull from Matilda, and Miranda Hart. And I think any kind of adaptation of this book would be hilarious, but also very heart-warming.
The friendship that develops between Margery and Enid, against all odds and expectations, is just beautiful. Each learns so much from the other and is allowed the space to truly be herself. Which I think is a really great foundation for a friendship.
There is also a lot of role reversal in this book. Although Margery is the expedition leader and Enid the assistant, they each take charge in different moments when the other is unable. This really helps to solidify their friendship, but also goes to show what women can accomplish when they have support from other women, especially when the world expects them to fail.
I really loved this book and it made me want to embark on a new adventure myself!
My rating: 4/5