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  • Published: 30 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9780552779487
  • Imprint: Black Swan
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $22.99

Miss Benson's Beetle

An uplifting story of female friendship against the odds

The bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry delivers an intoxicating adventure story about female friendship and having the courage to live your dreams, however unlikely they may be.


'The perfect escape novel for our troubled times.' PATRICK GALE

It is 1950. In a devastating moment of clarity, Margery Benson abandons her dead-end job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. She is going to travel to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist.
Enid Pretty, in her unlikely pink travel suit, is not the companion Margery had in mind. And yet together they will be drawn into an adventure that will exceed every expectation. They will risk everything, break all the rules, and at the top of a red mountain, discover their best selves.

This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story but it is also about what it means to be a woman and a tender exploration of a friendship that defies all boundaries.

'A girl's own adventure...This is Rachel Joyce's best book yet ...Exciting, moving and full of unexpected turns.' THE TIMES

'Brilliant and elegant and wise...powerful and moving...I can't recommend it enough.' JOANNA CANNON

'A beautiful portrayal of female friendship in all its frailties, contradictions and strengths.' RAYNOR WINN


  • Published: 30 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9780552779487
  • Imprint: Black Swan
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Rachel Joyce

Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Music Shop and a collection of interlinked short stories, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Her books have been translated into thirty-six languages and two are in development for film.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Rachel was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards ‘New Writer of the Year’ in December 2012 and shortlisted for the ‘UK Author of the Year’ 2014.

Rachel has also written over twenty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Bronte novels. She moved to writing after a long career as an actor, performing leading roles for the RSC, the National Theatre and Cheek by Jowl.

She lives with her family in Gloucestershire.

Also by Rachel Joyce

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Praise for Miss Benson's Beetle

I fell in love with the unlikely friendship between two wildly different women, Enid Pretty and Margery Benson-their devotion to each other as they trek up and down mountains in someplace called New Caledonia is a hysterical delight. This novel made me realize how hungry I am for stories about women loving each other into being their best selves. Many thanks to Rachel Joyce for writing one

Ann Napolitano, New York Times bestselling author of Dear Edward

A beautifully written, extraordinary quest in which two ordinary, overlooked women embark on an unlikely scientific expedition to the South Seas. A classic tale of gripping adventure and friendship, told from the subversive and often hilarious female view

Helen Simonson, New York Times bestselling author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Whatever you may look for in a novel—adventure, fully realized characters, humor, poignancy, a chance to learn something new—is all here in Miss Benson’s Beetle. What’s also here is the particular grace and humanity that Rachel Joyce brings to her work. She reminds us that we all are broken in one way or another, but that we are capable—oftentimes in unexpected ways—of helping to make ourselves and others whole. This beautifully written novel is an absolute delight.

Elizabeth Berg, author of The Story of Arthur Truluv

Editor's Choice: A gorgeous story about friendship, adventure and the importance of taking risks.

Alice O'Keefe, Bookseller

Any reader accompanying Rachel Joyce on this exhilarating expedition into the far reaches of the imagination is destined to be rewarded with the richest pleasure ... An enthralling, amazing expedition into the mysteries of the human heart.

David Park, Author of The Light of Amsterdam

Rachel Joyce is a masterful storyteller. She has written the perfect book for these times. Funny, perceptive and life-enhancing. I urge you to read it

Sarah Winman, author of When God was a Rabbit

Wonderful characters that I will not forget in a hurry ... This book will take you on the adventure of a lifetime. I loved every second!

Favel Parrett, author of Past the Shallows

Bursting with the irrepressible wonder that is quintessential Rachel Joyce. Miss Benson’s Beetle is about the courage to say YES! Yes, I will. Yes, I can. Radiant, transporting, idiosyncratic, tender and shimmeringly alive (and dead!) The master of charm and delight.

Keggie Carew, author of Dadland

As ever, Rachel Joyce made me laugh out loud, then weep for the battered majesty of ordinary human beings. Two unlikely heroines, their strange love, a pitiful villain and a life-affirming search for miraculous beauty… all combine in a wild, hopeful picaresque journey into the soul.

Bel Mooney, Daily Mail

I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, but Miss Benson's Beetle is even better. The characters have a richness and depth that drew me into their story immediately. And what characters! This book is far more than an unexpected adventure, it's a beautiful portrayal of female friendship in all its frailties, contradictions and strengths. It made me think we all have the power to be so much more than we imagine when we cut the chains of expectation. I actually feel as if I've just lost a positive, powerful friend - I'm cut adrift, I haven't been so immersed in a novel for years

Raynor Winn, author of The Salt Path

So fast-paced and fun it’ll make you remember why you loved reading in the first place. Miss Benson’s Beetle has everything: adventure, mystery, and the greatest, most unlikely friendship, all rendered in some of the most beautiful, enchanting prose you’ll ever read. It’s full of humour, pathos, and insight, extolling the virtues of love, acceptance, and hard-won self-discovery – all that gleams about the human spirit. It’ll capture you right at the beginning and hold you tight the whole way through. This book is a pure and serious joy.

Paula Saunders, author of The Distance Home

Miss Benson's Beetle is the perfect escape novel for our troubled times, about a woman in emotional, professional and physical lockdown who breaks free to reclaim her true self. It's as funny and nourishing as a classic Ealing comedy, as feminist as your formidable great-aunt

Patrick Gale, author of Notes from an Exhibition

BEST BOOKS FOR SUMMER 2020: uplifting


Rachel Joyce created an unforgettable character with Harold Fry and she's done it again with Margery Benson ... Hilarious

Good Housekeeping

An enchanting story of friendship and self-discovery

Scottish Herald

I greatly enjoyed this warm and charming novel about one of the most ill-matched companions in comic literature. The heroically intellectual, ungainly, unsociable Margery and the barely literate, flighty, charming, crazy Enid are both brave in very different yet ultimately compatible ways. Their adventures both on board ship and in New Caledonia read like EF Benson's Mapp and Lucia rewritten by the gentler pen of Barbara Pym

Amanda Craig, author of The Golden Rule

I've loved Rachel's writing since Harold's canvas shoes. Miss Benson's Beetle is just as brilliant and elegant and wise. It's also powerful and moving and I can't recommend it enough

Joanna Cannon

Rachel Joyce has cornered the market in bittersweet novels about elderly eccentrics that both prick and comfort the reader

Claire Allfree, Daily Mail

Beautifully written, quirky and humorous with wonderful characters


A clear-eyed, unsparing view of regret, failure, loss, & the cost that life exacts from so many, countered with a belief in the resilience of human spirit & the possibility of second chances.

Stephanie Merritt, Observer

A girl's own adventure...This is Rachel Joyce's best book yet ...Exciting, moving and full of unexpected turns... surely this is the one that will propel the intrepid Joyce off the long and shortlists into prizewinning territory.

Melissa Katsoulis, The Times

A glorious romp


A life-affirming, joyously escapist picaresque tale

Sunday Times

This glorious novel is as much about second chances, heartfelt friendships and emotional courage as it is about trekking through dangerous terrain.

Sunday Express

A glorious novel about second chances, heartfelt friendships and emotional courage.

Daily Mirror

A joy of a novel, with real insight into the lives of women, the value of friendship and the lasting effects of war

Katy Guest, Guardian

Unlikely and mesmerising, it's a book you don't want to end.


A sparkling new take on the concept of changing your life on a whim ... a standout, special read.

The Lady


Christina Hardyment, The Times

A hilarious jaunt into the wilderness of women's friendship and the triumph of outrageous dreams.

Kirkus Reviews

Joyce's characters are so charmingly eccentric that they could have leapt straight from the pages of a Dickens novel. Enid is a comedic masterpiece, effervescent and brimming with life. This exhilarating story will scoop you up and carry you along to a dizzying crescendo. But it is also a story of an unlikely friendship and of women who refuse to be defined by the labels cast upon them in drab 1950s Britain. Funny, wise, and utterly life-affirming

Daily Express

Miss Benson's Beetle is an absolute joy - a wild, funny, and breathlessly exciting adventure story that's also a moving and beautifully drawn portrait of an improbable female friendship in a world still emerging from the trauma of two world wars. Joyce writes about Margery and Enid with such tenderness and compassion, such wisdom and humour, weaving an irresistible tale of frailty and strength, curiosity and courage, grief and hope.

Carys Davies

Margery Benson dreams of finding a mythical gold beetle in New Caledonia. So she and her irritating assistant set sail from London in 1950-and become kindred spirits during an adventure both zany and harrowing. It's a wildly original, life-affirming tale.

People ("Best New Books"), USA

A book that will have you howling with laughter the one moment and wiping away tears the next - my favourite read in years. Don't miss it.

YOU magazine, South Africa

Unmissable fiction from an award-winning author: an unlikely pair embark on a grand adventure in this glorious novel about second chances, heartfelt friendships and emotional courage.

Eithne Farry, Sunday Express

Discover more

Rachel Joyce Q&A

The international bestselling author on cryptozoology, life in the 1950s and writing the ending early.