Beetlemania
YOU South Africa|15 October 2020
Beetlemania
Rachel Joyce on how she wrote her exhilarating new novel
JANE VORSTER

HER latest book has stormed straight to the top of South Africa’s best-seller lists. Seems local readers just can’t get enough of Rachel Joyce’s latest offering, Miss Benson’s Beetle.

Just like The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, the book that put Joyce on the map, it’s an uplifting tale of self-discovery with a huge heart that ticks all the boxes – it’s got adventure, travel and friendship, but what really stays with you is the exhilaration of seeing a woman finding the courage to be herself and follow her dreams.

The story, which is set in the 1950s, revolves around Margery Benson, a straight-laced former domestic science teacher, who travels from England to the forests of remote New Caledonia in the South Pacific in search of a mysterious gold beetle.

Accompanying her on her quest is her assistant, Enid Pretty, who is brash, loud and seems totally unsuitable for the job. But the women turn out to be more alike than they seem and a delightful friendship unfolds.

I’m betting that if it wasn’t for Covid-19 there’d be plenty of people booking their tickets to New Caledonia.

We caught up with the author, who lives in Glouces tershire, England, to find out how she brought this incredible story to life.

Why New Caledonia and why the gold beetle? What was it that sparked the idea for this book?

Many years ago, I was listening to an interview about cryptozoology on the radio. I had never heard of it before and I was entranced.

Cryptozoology is in essence the search for animals whose existence has not yet been proved. The Loch Ness monster is a top example.

I began thinking about how exactly you would start looking for a creature that hasn’t yet been found. As well as knowledge, you’re going to need imagination – to think beyond the confines of what you already know.

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15 October 2020