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
Joyce's sparkling latest (after The Music Shop) pops with grit, resilience, and the power of friendship. It's 1950, and 46-year-old Margery Benson teaches domestic science to girls in a London school. Having been humiliated one too many times in her 20-year stint teaching, a demeaning sketch of her by a student captioned, "The Virgin Margery!" is the catalyst that changes her life: she leaves the school with a pair of stolen lacrosse boots, returns to her lonely existence in her deceased aunt's flat, and puts an advertisement in the paper for a French-speaking assistant to travel with her to New Caledonia, where she intends to find a mythical golden beetle. The adventure is sparked by a memory of her father showing her a picture of the beetle in a book called Imaginary Creatures, full of "many incredible extra creatures in the world, and nobody had found a single one of them." Enter Enid Pretty, Margery's polar opposite: young, beautiful, petite, and headstrong. During their travels in New Caledonia, each woman faces uncomfortable truths about herself and the other, and both eschew traditional women's expectations in their own way to celebrate their true selves. Joyce's graceful touch and cutting humor undercut the potential for mawkishness and give the characters a rich complexity and depth. With a plucky protagonist and plenty of action, this is a winner.
Miss Bensons Beetle
An unlikely pair travel to the other side of the globe in search of a beetle no one knows exists. In the process they plumb the depths of themselves, exploring places with in each of them they never knew existed. A very good read.
Miss Benson’s Beetle was quite a surprise!
At first, everything was just so negative, it was hard to keep going. But, boy, how glad I am that I did! Extraordinary story!
I read this for book group. At first I wasn’t thrilled with the title. I had no idea. It was one of the most beautiful and enthralling books I have read in a long time.