A wonderful story that both Jan and I thought was so well done and very enjoyable.
The truest friendships are those that allow us to step out of the confines of what we once were, and to realize instead what we might be”.
It’s 1950, and Margery is a middle-aged unmarried teacher who decides to chuck it all and go in search of an elusive beetle in New Caledonia. She can’t do it alone and so enlists the help of a companion. Enter Enid, a woman who is the exact opposite of Margery. They could not be more ill-matched, both in appearance and personality.
Defying all the odds, they embark on their madcap journey and endure many hardships and dangers along the way. Their adventure is zany enough to require the reader to suspend some disbelief, which is not easy for me, but in this case the characters won me over. However, it’s not all fun and games, as there are some darker elements at play.
The premise may not sound the most compelling, but it didn’t take long for Enid in her frothy pink and her pom-pom sandals and Margery in her boots and pith helmet to worm their way into my heart. I loved seeing them discover their worth and take charge of their lives in an era when gender roles were strictly confined.
There’s zaniness but also poignancy and heartbreak during this journey, one that will make you laugh one minute, and break your heart the next. The only misstep for me was the character with PTSD. I don’t think he added anything of value to the story.
I’ve loved Miss Joyce’s previous books and this one is no exception. To paraphrase my review of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: We all have baggage and lose our way at times, but it’s never too late to change and we need to both give and accept help along the way.
And if you find a friend along the way, even in the most unlikeliest of places, it’s a precious thing to be held close to your heart.
Don’t miss this one! Marialyce and I have had a string of disappointing reads and dnf’s but this is the first fiction book in a while that we both loved. What is more perfect than to read a book about friendship with a friend?
Be sure to read the amusing Q&A “interview” with Margery and Enid at the end as well as the author’s note about where she drew inspiration for her book.
· I highly recommend this on audio – the narration was perfection!
What is better than a sincere and loving friend? If you have one, it’s easy to explain. However, for Margery Benson, an spinster teacher, a friend is not something you have. Margery does have a dream though, a kind of strange one for a middle-aged woman, but dream she does of acquiring a golden beetle supposedly found near white orchid plants in New Caledonia. It’s a beetle spoken of by her late father, one that has not been captured, but Margery feels she is the one to have her name up in lights, well really marked as a natural history explorer, and thereby gain some notoriety and not be forgotten among the annals of that famous British museum.
Acquiring a companion, after inauspiciously leaving her teaching job with a pilfered pair of boots, Margery interviews one very strange man, Mr Medvic, a POW survivor who is struggling with POSTD. she gets bad vibes from him, so next is a very out different blonde-haired woman, Enid Pretty, and although at first poor Enid is a fail, she eventually through a series of events winds up as Miss Benson’s companion. The POW is intent on his mission to lead the expedition, so he clandestinely follows Margery. He is a D-A-N-G-E-R.
The ladies couldn’t have been more ill matched. Their interactions are not only unusual, but also downright funny. Enid is a talker while Margery prefers silence and solitude and as Enid prattles on, we find out hints to her life, a life that has been sad where men have taken advantage of her, where all she desires is to have a child. We listen in on the thoughts of Margery, and find more about her upbringing and the way life has forced her to be that British spinster she knows herself to be.
The ladies finally after a very long voyage where poor Margery is seasick with Enid caring for her, in New Caledonia. Both ladies are short of the immigration forms but through Enid’s savoie faire, they are on their way with equipment and a jeep seemingly appearing miraculously.
The climate is brutal and they are on their own hacking their way through the forest with Enid joyfully leading the way, and Margery trailing behind grossing. As they live together and find somewhat common ground, the bond of friendship grows which is definitely a good thing for Enid has a huge surprise in store for Margery. Change is in the wind, sometimes danger lurks, but as they say when the going gets rough…..
And what about the golden beetles? Are they found and pinned to specimen board while Margery attains the glory she longs for?
This delightful, charming story was well done, even with that ending that broke my heart, with its ability to enable the quips between the ladies to lighten up that smile upon your face. My husband mentioned to me that I must be enjoying the story, since he saw me often grin. We need these types of stories and although labeled as a hunt for an elusive beetle, there was a hunt going on for so much more for our two ladies. Definitely a recommendation for this tale! Interesting that this story was based on a photo!
Jan and I liked the light-hearted friendship and comradely these lovely ladies shared. Such and enjoyable read for the both of us!
and here’s the author:
Rachel Joyce has written over 20 original afternoon plays for BBC Radio 4, and major adaptations for both the Classic Series, Woman’s Hour and also a TV drama adaptation for BBC 2. In 2007 she won the Tinniswood Award for best radio play. She moved to writing after a twenty-year career in theatre and television, performing leading roles for the RSC, the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Court, and Cheek by Jowl, winning a Time Out Best Actress award and the Sony Silver.