I have an admission to make. When I chose this book, all I remembered was I had read “something” by Rachel Joyce before and enjoyed it. Looking at the title, my thoughts went to a schoolteacher who owned a Volkswagen. When I discovered it was about an old-maid home economics teacher who had been an entomologist looking for an undiscovered golden beetle, I lost patience after the first twenty pages and put it down.
Fortunately for me, blogger Deb Nance of Readerbuzz read and mentioned it in a post; our tastes in reading are closely aligned, so since she liked it, I decided to give it a “go.” I’m so glad I did.
Miss Benson, fed-up with her uninteresting, mundane life, decided to do something about it–something that fueled her passion for beetles. She planned a scientific expedition to New Caledonia, the other side of the world from her home, where the rumored beetle was “likely” to be discovered, if anywhere. Hiring Enid Petty, a “floozy,” as my grandmother would describe her, as her assistant, Margery Benson soon was enmeshed in the adventure/misadventure of her lifetime. Joyce even throws in a madman of sorts, who after being turned down for the position of assistant, stalks the two women wherever they travel. One can expect humor and warmth from Joyce, and this book delivers them in spades.
Joyce explores the theme of women’s friendships, and the ending is quite extraordinary. In the back of the book the “Acknowledgments”and “Afterwards” only add dimension to the reading experience. There are insightful discussion questions in the “Reader’s Guide” and a charming “Interview”of the two main characters by the author–something I’ve never come across before. Like the author titles this section, “In Fiction Anything Is Possible.”