Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce: 2**

I am in a book club and we were assigned this book to read. Having read Rachel Joyce’s first book, The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I was hopeful that this book was going to be as enjoyable as that book. Unfortunately I will have to be part of the minority that says that this book was a total disappointment and I cannot figure out what everyone sees in the book.

Rachel Joyce seems to like writing books that involve journeys, and here she decides to take her lead character on a quest to find the undiscovered golden beetle that allegedly can be only found in New Caledonia. Her lead character, Margery Benson, is not exactly a person that I would be friends with. She had a strange upbringing, lost all of her brothers as well as her mother, and I’m still not sure whether her father killed himself or just left the family. But she was raised by Aunts, and they did nothing to teach her the ways of the world or how to even fit into the world. Instead she developed a love of beetles, because her father had told her about the golden beetle. Thanks to this she eventually hung out at the Natural History Museum and learned all she could about the wonderful and fascinating world of beetles. Many years later, in 1950, she decided that she would strike out on her own to try to discover this elusive insect, after a calamitous incident at the school she worked at.

She eventually has a traveling companion, Enid Pretty, who is rather bizarre and who has her own secret as to why she wants to leave England and travel to New Caledonia. The two women don’t exactly mesh, yet at the same time they are able to survive together. There are scenes on board the boat trip from England to new Caledonia, as well as many scenes in New Caledonia and how they thrashed their way through the jungles of that island. Marjorie is on a quest, and Edith is there to escape. And along the way there’s a male character by the name of Mundic who is totally unnecessary. This character does nothing to advance the storyline of the book, and is really nothing more than a stalker. He is instrumental only to advance the ending of the book, and I think that the author could have created a better character to obtain the same result, or could have written the dramatic climax in a much more believable way.

Now some people will say that this book is good because it shows how women used to be treated in the world and in academia, and how eventually Margery overcomes that. That much is true. But is that the only reason we liked the book? The book begins with a very good premise and idea, but after the first 100 pages it runs into a brick wall and I could not finish this fast enough. In addition the entire conclusion of this book was obvious, and once Enid decided to give her baby Margery’s last name you knew exactly what had to happen, and it did.

Again, I am very disappointed in this book which I know is a minority point of view and for me it is a disappointment since I had such high hopes that I would enjoy this book due to the author and the reviews I had read. I now begin to wonder whether the people in my book club actually read this book before they assigned it, because it’s certainly one that I would not assign because there’s really not much to talk about. Some people don’t like mystery books because there’s not much to talk about, and I don’t see any difference in this book. but this seems to be the authors MO. She starts with a good premise and then the further we get into a book we get more into either magical realism or fantasy or whatever but it just loses its way. I really did not care for the characters and as I said the one male character was completely unsympathetic and unnecessary and I really don’t understand why he was included.

I know I am in the minority, but I’m not about to give a book a good rating just because others do, especially when I did not enjoy a book, and the longer I read this book the less I enjoyed it. 

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