Sunday, January 16, 2022

Fiction Review: Miss Benson's Beetle

I was thrilled when my neighborhood book group chose Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce because I absolutely loved (as did the rest of the group) her earlier novels, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and  The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.  This latest novel from Joyce is just as quirky and funny yet warm and thoughtful as those.

In 1950, amidst post-war rationing and rebuilding in London, spinster Margery Benson suddenly rebels from her staid life as a Home Ec teacher. For reasons she can't even explain to herself, she reaches her breaking point, abruptly leaves her job, and decides to follow her lifelong dream. Margery loves insects, especially beetles. When she was a child, her father had a book that talked about the possibly-mythical golden beetle of New Caledonia, a remote island in the Pacific. Ever since then, through devastating losses, Margery has dreamed of going to the island and finding the golden beetle and making a name for herself as an explorer entomologist. Margery launches a search for a research assistant and begins planning her expedition. Through a variety of misunderstandings and mistakes, petite Enid Pretty joins Margery on her trip, dressed in tiny high heels and a bright pink suit. The two of them make quite the odd couple, as they cross oceans and embark on the journey of a lifetime that will change them both in unforeseen ways.

As with those earlier two novels, I absolutely loved this unique story! It's just pure fun to read, filled with humor and quirkiness that made me often laugh out loud. What I most love about Joyce's novels, though, is the tenderness and warmth she shows toward her flawed but human characters. Both Margery and Enid have their own demons in their past lives that they are running from, both figuratively and in reality. Through it all, though, they pursue Margery's dream and hunt for the mysterious beetle, amid one challenge after another and a whole lot of surprise twists! The other thing I love about Joyce's novels is her thoughtful writing that makes you think in the midst of laughing. Here, toward the end of the novel, Margery muses on the true meaning of friendship:

"Being a friend meant accepting those unknowable things. It meant saying, "Look! Look how big my leg is! And look how small yours is! Look how marvelously different we are, you and I, and yet here we are, together in this strange world!" 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."

I enjoyed every moment of Margery's and Enid's adventures together, I laughed and I cried, and when I finished the book, I hugged it to my chest. I can't wait to see what Rachel Joyce writes next!

352 pages, Doubleday

Random House Audio

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.


Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!


Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, narrated by Juliet Stevenson, and/or download it from Audible.


You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!  

Or you can order Miss Benson's Beetle from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. I am so glad to finally read a review of this book. I liked, not loved, The Harold Fry novel. Which did you like better? That one or this one? It is on my TBR for no other reason than I love quirky books.

    1. Oh, interesting, Anne, because Harold Fry is still my favorite :) But if you like quirky, then you absolutely must get to know Margery and Enid!!


  2. I am so glad you liked this one so much. Thinking about it still makes me smile. I also appreciated the quirkiness of the characters and the situation. I haven't read her other books, but maybe I should.

    1. Oh, yes, definitely, Helen! I enjoyed this book, but Harold Fry is still my favorite of hers.