Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

If you read only one book this month, please read Miss Benson's Beetle! The UK Sunday Times describes it as a life-affirming, joyously escapist picaresque tale and the Guardian says Miss Benson’s Beetle is a joy of a novel, with real insight into the lives of women, the value of friendship and the lasting effects of war. Its glorious!

Miss Margery Benson is a lonely spinster teaching domestic science in grim 1950s England when she does something utterly out of character – she cashes in her inheritance and mounts an expedition to new Caledonia in search of a beetle that may or may not exist. When her chosen assistant cancels just days before the ship is due to sail, she enlists the services of ditsy Enid, her polar opposite and totally unsuited to the job. As the unlikely pair head off to the other side of the world, they are drawn into an adventure that exceeds all their expectations. Within these pages you will find a horrid English girls’ school, a rough sea passage, obnoxious colonials, extremes of climate, the lingering after effects of war, the wonders of nature and the healing power of friendship. A lovely, lovely read!

Rachel Joyce has specialised in stories about overlooked people jolted out of their routines into unexpected situations that allow them to face the buried griefs that have kept them trapped in small lives…. it would be a mistake to think of her novels as merely “heartwarming”…. Joyce has a clear-eyed, unsparing view of regret, failure and loss, and the cost that life exacts from so many, even while she counters it with a belief in the resilience of the human spirit and the possibility of second chances. – The Guardian