A warm-hearted and surprising adventure story, Miss Benson’s Beetle has the classic pairing of two contrasting characters who find friendship despite their differences.
Set in the 1950s, the story follows Margery Benson, a frumpy middle-aged schoolteacher. She’s lonely and unfulfilled. One day she suddenly decides to quit, in favour of a quest to find the legendary golden beetle of New Caledonia. However, she needs an assistant and companion to help her out. Enter the voluptuous, baby-obsessed Enid Pretty. They’re not suited at all but it looks like they have an interesting journey ahead…
The dynamic between the two characters is the most enjoyable element of this book. I also liked the descriptions of their journey and of New Caledonia (don’t worry, I didn’t know where it was, either), in the southwest Pacific Ocean. Themes included the social and mental health effects of the two World Wars and the importance of women’s friendships. I found that my interest in the book lessened after the halfway point. It felt too lengthy and slow paced. I found it hard to connect to the characters and would have liked a first person narrative for at least one of them.
In summary, this is a good read and you’ll enjoy it if you like contrasting characters. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re beetle-phobic.
Thank you to Transworld for the advance copy via NetGalley. The book will be published on 23rd July.