Archive for the ‘New Caledonia’ Tag

In search of beetles — bugs, not cars   Leave a comment

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Miss Benson’s Beetle, by Rachel Joyce, is meant to be a charming book, but falls short.  It’s predictable and the characters are caricatures.

Margery Benson’s life is a sorrowful one. Her father commits suicide when she’s a young girl and most of her life is spent living with her depressed mother and dour aunts. Before his death, however, her father showed her a book about bugs, which created an interest in beetles, in particular.

As a middle-aged woman whose life is passing her by, she resolves to find the mythic golden beetle of New Caledonia. Before setting off on this venture, Margery decides an assistant is required. She opts for Enid Pretty, a woman she’s never met, whose correspondence suggests dyslexia, in favor of a Mr. Mundic with post-traumatic stress disorder (although that wasn’t identified following World War II).

Enid is the opposite of Margery in style, personality and intellect.  Enid, whose lively demeanor is off-putting to her employer, does help keep Margery on track. The two set off on their adventure and, unbeknownst to them, are followed by the rejected Mundic. Actually, it’s outright stalking. His inclusion in the plot does little to help move it forward.

In their travels, the women overcome numerous obstacles and forge a bond. Their search for the elusive beetle is secondary.  While their eventual friendship is unsurprising, it is, nonetheless – at times – endearing. Perhaps most enjoyable is the author’s inclusion of an “interview” with the characters at the end of the book.

Miss Benson’s Beetle

The Dial Press, 2020

353 pages (includes Reader’s Guide)

Three Bookmarks