Miss Benson's Beetle: A Novel (Paperback)
A Thelma and Louise meets Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand story! In 1950, Margery Benson, a school teacher and spinster, steals a pair of boots and goes on the lam to New Caledonia in search of a golden beetle she’d fantasized about since childhood. As her assistant, she hires Enid Pretty, who arrives in a tight fitting pink suit, sandals with pom poms, a mysterious red valise, and a past only slowly revealed. The beetle may or may not exist but a hilarious, plot twisting escapade/adventure unfolds, along with a most unlikely friendship and an endearing transformation of both women. A delightful, charming, eccentric read— I loved it!— Carolyn
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “A beautifully written, extraordinary quest in which two ordinary, overlooked women embark on an unlikely scientific expedition to the South Seas.”—Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
WINNER OF THE WILBUR SMITH ADVENTURE WRITING PRIZE • From the bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry comes an uplifting, irresistible novel about two women on a life-changing adventure, where they must risk everything, break all the rules, and discover their best selves—together.
She’s going too far to go it alone.
It is 1950. London is still reeling from World War II, and Margery Benson, a schoolteacher and spinster, is trying to get through life, surviving on scraps. One day, she reaches her breaking point, abandoning her job and small existence to set out on an expedition to the other side of the world in search of her childhood obsession: an insect that may or may not exist—the golden beetle of New Caledonia. When she advertises for an assistant to accompany her, the woman she ends up with is the last person she had in mind. Fun-loving Enid Pretty in her tight-fitting pink suit and pom-pom sandals seems to attract trouble wherever she goes. But together these two British women find themselves drawn into a cross-ocean adventure that exceeds all expectations and delivers something neither of them expected to find: the transformative power of friendship.
Praise for Miss Benson’s Beetle
“A hilarious jaunt into the wilderness of women’s friendship and the triumph of outrageous dreams.”—Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Rachel Joyce is the author of The Music Shop, the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, as well as the digital short story A Faraway Smell of Lemon and a story collection, 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. Joyce was named the Specsavers National Book Awards "New Writer of the Year" in December 2012 and shortlisted for the "UK Author of the Year" 2014. Joyce has also written more than thirty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Brontë 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.
“[Miss Benson’s Beetle] feels larger than Joyce’s other books—more expansive, swashbuckling, a wild adventure. It is the best so far of her novels, and the most inspiring. . . . At the heart of the story is the slow, unlikely friendship that builds between the two women and how that friendship enables them both to grow stronger, more capable and more self-reliant. . . . There is resilience, there is redemption, and there is beauty—great beauty.”—Minneapolis
“I fell in love with the unlikely friendship between two wildly different women—their devotion to each other as they trek up and down mountains in someplace called New Caledonia is a hysterical delight. This novel made me realize how hungry I am for stories about women loving each other into being their best selves.”—Ann Napolitano, author of Dear Edward
“Miss Benson’s Beetle is a pure joyride. Sweet, witty, poignant, filled with intrigue and unlikely friendship, it’s a perfect escape. I loved it.”—Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours and The Book of Lost Friends
“Whatever you may look for in a novel—adventure, fully realized characters, humor, poignancy, a chance to learn something new—is all here in Miss Benson’s Beetle. What’s also here is the particular grace and humanity that Rachel Joyce brings to her work. She reminds us that we all are broken in one way or another, but that we are capable—oftentimes in unexpected ways—of helping to make ourselves and others whole. This beautifully written novel is an absolute delight.”—Elizabeth Berg, author of The Story of Arthur Truluv
“As ever, Rachel Joyce made me laugh out loud, then weep for the battered majesty of ordinary human beings. Two unlikely heroines, their strange love, a pitiful villain, and a life-affirming search for miraculous beauty . . . all combine in a wild, hopeful picaresque journey into the soul.”—Bel Mooney, Daily Mail
“It’s full of humor, pathos, and insight, extolling the virtues of love, acceptance, and hard-won self-discovery—all that gleams about the human spirit. It’ll capture you right at the beginning and hold you tight the whole way through. This book is a pure and serious joy.”—Paula Saunders, author of The Distance Home
“For Eleanor Oliphant fans, Miss Benson’s Beetle is pure gold—full of complex, memorable women, plot twists, and a deft balance of hilarity and emotion, it’s a book you’ll stay up late to finish.”—J. Ryan Stradal, author of The Lager Queen of Minnesota
“For readers who seek escape, Miss Benson’s Beetle is just right.” —BookPage
“Joyce’s sparkling latest pops with grit, resilience, and the power of friendship. . . . Joyce’s graceful touch and cutting humor . . . give the characters a rich complexity and depth. With a plucky protagonist and plenty of action, this is a winner.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)