MISS BENSON’S BEETLE by Rachel Joyce: A Review

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.

When I read the afterpages, I discovered I had read and truly delighted in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye, The Love Story of Miss Queenie Hennesy, and The Music Shop–all novels by this same author.

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.”

Author: Rae Longest

This year (2019) finds me with 50 plus years of teaching "under my belt." I have taught all levels from pre-K "(library lady" or "book lady"--volunteer) to juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in my Advanced Writing class at the university where I have just completed 30 years. My first paying teaching job was junior high, and I spent 13 years with ages 12-13, the "difficult years." I had some of the "funnest" experiences with this age group. When I was no longer the "young, fun teacher," I taught in an elementary school setting before sixth graders went on to junior high, teaching language arts blocs, an assignment that was a "dream-fit" for me. After completing graduate school in my 40s, I went on to community college, then university teaching. Just as teaching is "in my blood," so is a passion for reading, writing, libraries, and everything bookish. This blog will be open to anyone who loves books, promotes literacy and wants to "come out and play."

6 thoughts on “MISS BENSON’S BEETLE by Rachel Joyce: A Review”

    1. There’s a Christian Country song I hear on the radio here sung by a woman who is singing she’s grateful for “God and My Girlfriends.” I guess we can get through anything if we’ve got those two.


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