Rachel Joyce’s — Miss Benson’s beetle *****

Rachel Joyce’s — Miss Benson’s beetle *****

Frumpy Margery Benson is a middle-aged English spinster who works as a home science teacher. Her three older brothers are killed in WW11. Her parents die. And her remaining two aunts die. Her life is lonely and boring, until she discovers a note with a comical caricature of herself being passed around her sniggering classroom. She storms out of the school stealing the head mistress’s boots, and is determined to leave England still suffering from rationing after the war. Margery decides to chase the dream she abandoned after her father’s suicide, and discover the golden beetle of New Caledonia .

She prepares her entomology equipment, hires an assistant, and books their passages to Australia and floatplane to New Caledonia. But just before the leaving date, her assistant backs out, and Margery is forced to hire Enid who wears tight dresses and sandals with pompoms. How will she survive with this woman who appears nervous and in a hurry to leave England? How will they be understood when Enid has lied and said she speaks French? Will Margery be able to find her illustrious beetle when neither of them have ever done any fieldwork before, let alone in a jungle?

This is a hilarious tale of an unlikely pair — Margery serious yet flustered, and Enid boisterous and suspected of murder by the British police. It’s just the tonic we need during these trying times.

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