Book Club Discussion!

Time to share the March Good Read…..

 This Book Club is a bit unusual in that it features many diverse bookish things and news of my own work and ways of writing, but of course we have to share the joy of reading too! 

Paula’s Book Club Good Read for March

 This month I want to recommend “Miss Benson’s Beetle” by Rachel Joyce

I listened to Juliet Stephenson reading the audio version and was completely transported by it! The story is unusual, with a middle-aged central character and supporting cast of curious misfits. Rachel Joyce has a talent for creating believable yet outlandish characters (she had huge success with an earlier book, “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”) and is particularly skilled at balancing humour with pathos.

I really enjoyed the way she built the tension in this story. I quickly became attached to Miss Benson and her quest to find the fabled golden beetles in a far flung corner of the world. 

Her journey served as a fine metaphor for the way we all search for meaning in our lives. At the same time, it provided a real mission, with many hilarious and poignant mishaps and encounters along the way. 

The book is set in the 1950s and starts with our central character, Miss Benson, at a turning point in her life. She will not settle for the small and the mundane any longer, and is prepared to risk all that she has, all the stability and safety of her little world, for one last throw of the dice.

Five golden stars for those golden beetles!

What are your thoughts? I’m particularly interested in what you felt about the main character(s). I’d also love to hear your opinions on the delicate balance between comedy and tragedy at work here. 

Please post your opinions, thoughts, reviews or questions in the comments section below.

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Jim Eves
Jim Eves
2 months ago

I been a fan of Rachel Joyce books since i read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry , and what i love about her books is the way she captures the period so well, and with Mrs Bensons Beetle she really gets the 1950s , i say this as a child of the 50s in London and she really gets the greyness of that time for me. I loved the characters of Margery and Enid , in my head i picture them played by the actresses of that time, Margery would be played by ,Hattie Jacques and Enid a young Barbara Winsor. The reason they worked for me is that they would get the humour and tragedy of that period , the optimism of Enid even in tragedy, paired with Margery they make the ideal comic couple , in fact a early female Odd couple. For me this is the best Rachel Joyce book so far, a really enjoyable read and a great way to start the club.

Paula
Paula
Reply to  Jim Eves
1 month ago

I love that casting, Jim! And yes, the period detail is spot on. Rachel Joyce never disappoints.

Christy Nather
Christy Nather
1 month ago

I loved this book. I could relate to Margery so well. When she “Lost It” and ran off with the boots, I laughed so much and also felt sad for her. I could totally relate to having a moment where you just couldn’t take anymore and then do something stupid LOL. She grew so much in this book. I loved how she would look at herself and see her own stuck ways and her behaviour and then make a choice to change it.
I found myself annoyed with Enid as well. As I was going through the book I was asking myself (as margery did) why I am triggered by this woman and looked at how I have thought of other people in my life that I found annoying. What in my past or present is being triggered by this person. I could also relate to Margerys contemplation of having lived almost 50 years and not done anything really with her life. This book made me take another look at myself and I broke down a few times, to be honest. This book, although so sad at the end when Enid died ( I kind of figured that would happen) touched me in so many ways and thats what a good book should do. I was sad when it ended and wanted to hear of other adventures that she had before she got old. I did love the era it was in. Even though there were hardships, things were simpler. No cell phones/computers to keep you distracted from inner contemplation.

Paula
Paula
Reply to  Christy Nather
1 month ago

You raise such interesting points about how we react to some people, about how we perhaps allow ourselves to judge quickly. I too found it a very moving book. I thought about it a lot after I’d finished it. It really stayed with me. Like you, I wondered what Miss Benson did next!

Wendy
Wendy
1 month ago

I must confess it took me a while to really get into this book – it just wasn’t clicking for me until about 2/3 of the way in. Then I couldn’t put it down! I think a lot of us can relate to Margery on some level, and probably wish we had a little more Enid inside us. It was lovely how their friendship blossomed and how, with Enid’s influence, Margery started really living for the first time in her life. I didn’t like Enid’s sad ending (she totally made the book for me), and could have done without the creepy stalker, but still am so glad I read it.

Paula
Paula
Reply to  Wendy
1 month ago

I think possibly the audio is easier to stick with, Juliet Stephenson is so entertaining. I kept switching between thinking I should be more Margery or more Enid. Perhaps together they gave the ideal balance!

Karina
Karina
1 month ago

I found this book easy to read and I quite enjoyed it. I would rate it 7/10. I didn’t guess the ending, which for me came as a shock, even though the build up was very creepy, as someone else said.

Paula
Paula
Reply to  Karina
1 month ago

There was an undercurrent of creepiness. I didn’t like it, but I think it was needed for a real element of threat. As Margery and Enid’s friendship grew, it had to be tested in a new way. Or at least, that’s how I think the writer saw it!

Ann
Ann
1 month ago

Sounds great! I’ve just reserved a copy at my library.

Cat
Cat
1 month ago

This is an amazing book – I read it and then listened to the Audio book – both were fantastic !
I loved Harold Fry and the sequel – so was expecting great things from this book and it didn’t disappoint !

It really transported you away with Margery and Enid to find the beetle !

Paula
Paula
Reply to  Cat
1 month ago

Definitely a test of a good book if you want to listen to the audio after you’ve read it! Quite different experiences of the same story. Did you like one version better than the other? I agree, we were transported in more ways than one with Margery on her quest. Glad you enjoyed it.

Rochelle Hickey
Rochelle Hickey
1 month ago

I loved the main characters and definitely grew attached to Enid. They were the complete opposite of each other but they each lacked what they other had. And the balance between the comedy and tragedy made it feel more like real life. You never knew if they would be prevented from going on, or finding the beetle. Every encounter felt like the plot could go either way. And the stress of Mr. Mundic! At first I didn’t like his return, like it was unnecessary, but I realize it’s because as a character he made me uncomfortable and was unpredictable. He’s a person in real life I would try to avoid and that’s what made him interesting. He was a wild card and you never knew how he would effect Marg(ery) and Enid. This book really had everything: realism mixed with fairytales, humor and sadness, adventure, and hopeful endings. I absolutely loved it!

Paula
Paula
Reply to  Rochelle Hickey
1 month ago

It sounds as if, like me, you got a lot out of this story, Rochelle. I’m with you on the necessity for the element of threat and unpredictability. I think the author gets the balance spot on, so that the comedy and upbeat nature of the book is not lost, but nor does it become too sweet.

Judy Nappa
Judy Nappa
1 month ago

Finally made it here!! I read Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye and had this book on my TBR list.

I just loved this story – Margery, the main character, and her tragic and lonely life. So much heartbreak growing up, an unrequited love and stuck teaching absolutely horrid girls Domestic Science. She decides to leave her sad life behind and embark on a trip to find an elusive beetle on an island near Australia. She ends up with Enid, the most unlikely travel companion one could ever imagine (who you just knew was hiding something right off). But as opposite as they were, they were both good for each other. Such a well written plot – one wild trip, humour and heartbreak, a rather shocking revelation, a heart-breaking twist but, in the end, a touching story of growth and friendship. A roller coaster of emotions (tears and laughter) throughout, always feeling that Enid was going to leave Margery in the lurch (but she always came back) – what an adventure!! A great choice for our first book club read! Thank you 🙂

Paula
Paula
Reply to  Judy Nappa
1 month ago

Welcome, Judy! I was moved to tears by this book, which is rare for me. It also made me laugh a lot, and I reread some scenes because they were just so darn wonderful. I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. The next choice coming soon in the April newsletter.

Judy
Judy
Reply to  Paula
1 month ago

Paula, I think I was in tears for the last third of the book…a bittersweet ending but definitely a new favourite <3

Danie Leigh
Danie Leigh
1 month ago

I absolutely love this book!!! I can’t wait to see the next book you choose for us to read

Paula
Paula
Reply to  Danie Leigh
1 month ago

Working on the April newsletter – virus permitting, should be going out at the end of the week.

Nicola Bagworth
Nicola Bagworth
1 month ago

I personally wouldn’t have chosen this book based on the title. However the audio version was excellent. Such a vast contrast in characters, I think Paula you used the word “misfits” which sums the main characters up perfectly.
All three characters have their own nightmares, Enid, who’s only longing is to have a baby, Margery and her inability to accept her fathers suicide and the poor POW who’s very life was just a living nightmare. Such a contrast yet so alike.
The audio version was read excellently by Juliet, her interpretation of Enid was spot on and it really brought the characters to life.
I was pleasantly surprised by the humour, there is a very fine balance on the quantity but my thoughts are it worked very well, especially the odd expletive thrown in by Enid.
I didn’t guess the end, shame about Enid’s demise, however Gloria would have filled the gap in Margery’s life – well that’s how I see it.
I ranked it 5 stars, a compelling story which I enjoyed very much.

Paula
Paula
Reply to  Nicola Bagworth
1 month ago

It’s interesting that the title would have put you off, I hadn’t thought of that! I’m glad you pushed past it to discover a new writer. I agree with you, Gloria is such a blessing for Margery.