Unlike Joyce’s previous books, this wild women’s adventure story is exciting, moving and full of unexpected turns. There’s nothing twee about big, brave Marge as she changes from her sad old self into the kind of legendary female who can beat up baddies, drive a stolen truck through the night and turn her hand to some gory jungle surgery. Enid’s journey is similarly captivating as she strives to overcome a history of abuse and abandonment ... By the time the story reaches its breathtaking final act, there’s no doubt that Joyce has hit her stride. These are characters you cannot help falling in love with, and the wider social setting of postwar England is beautifully done ... Surely this is the one that will propel the intrepid Joyce off the long and shortlists into prizewinning territory.
... starts out in black and white and then opens up into glorious Technicolor ... feels larger than Joyce’s other books — more expansive, swashbuckling, a wild adventure. It is the best so far of her novels, and the most inspiring ... At the heart of the story is the slow, unlikely friendship that builds between the two women and how that friendship enables them both to grow stronger, more capable and more self-reliant. And if this sounds hokey, well, it’s not. It’s thrilling ... There are delightful flashes of humor in this novel they fight, they bicker, they betray each other. Secrets and hurt from their past threaten to jeopardize their present. Joyce is excellent at depicting their pain and revealing their failings, and she has no qualms about repeatedly placing her characters in harm’s way ... The ending is not pat, nor fully happy. But it is hopeful. There is resilience, there is redemption, and there is beauty — great beauty. In Technicolor.
... an excellent premise, and one that pans out almost as heartwarmingly as you’d expect, but with some powerful, moving and sometimes violent surprises en route ... While the journey of self-discovery may be predictable, Miss Benson’s Beetle is a joy of a novel, with real insight into the lives of women, the value of friendship and the lasting effects of war.
... balances the light with the dark, such as Margery’s trauma-filled youth ... The novel also has a marvelous, economical way of contrasting the drab gray of postwar London with the vivid colors, sounds and smells of New Caledonia ... Joyce’s fiction has been slotted into 'uplit,' a publishing term for novels that contain some dark moments but ultimately offer an uplifting ending. For readers who seek escape, Miss Benson’s Beetle is just right.
In a text-book first chapter—the best opening this reviewer has read in a long time—we are introduced to Margaret Benson, then aged 10 ... [T]he novel is a terrific yarn of derring-do and female solidarity. Not so far beneath the humor, however, lies a much more modern agenda of self-knowledge and empowerment.
... a hope-filled and joyful story about two unlikely women on the journey of a lifetime ... hopeful and heartwarming, but it is an equally atmospheric and vibrant read that touches on not only the results of war, but also the joy of travel and the excitement of discovery. Joyce effortlessly weaves feelings of hopelessness, danger and misadventure with themes of resilience and endurance, resulting in a completely captivating and absorbing novel. Though the premise feels familiar in some ways, I loved that the book was about two women striking out on their own, and not about chasing men or pursuing typically women-filled roles. Miss Benson’s role as a spinster makes her unique enough, but her passion for finding the Golden Beetle fills even airheaded Enid with warmth and envy, and adds an interesting element of science and history to the story ... Margery and Enid are absolutely unforgettable, and the way that Joyce pushes each of them into growth and change is equal parts touching and laugh-out-loud funny. I cannot begin to count the number of times I found myself giggling at either the situation ... Although Miss Benson is our protagonist, Enid is such a perfect foil that she practically leaps off the page in every scene, and the ways in which she encourages Miss Benson to do the same are masterful. Joyce pays careful attention to detail and pacing so that their development feels natural and organic ... If you’ve been longing for a book about fully realized women helping one another grow through kindness and acceptance, this 'happy' book with a lot of depth is exactly what you need ... this delightful mix of sweet and witty --- with just a hint of mystery --- will sweep readers off their feet.
Joyce has a clear-eyed, unsparing view of regret, failure and loss, and the cost that life exacts from so many, even while she counters it with a belief in the resilience of the human spirit and the possibility of second chances ... There are echoes of classic travel adventures such as Around the World in Eighty Days, as genteel British explorers attempt to maintain their customs and decorum in the most un-British environments, and plenty of madcap capers to hinder our heroine, who regrets her impulsiveness almost as soon as she has set foot on board the ship to Australia. But there is a darker side too ... Joyce is at her most insightful in the novel’s moments of quiet reflection ... There’s a danger that novels affirming the value of kindness and connection can tip into cliche; Joyce knows her material well enough to avoid this for the most part, and her deadpan humour undercuts any sentimentality. Her endings may not always be neatly happy, but they are fiercely hopeful.
... sparkling ... pops with grit, resilience, and the power of friendship ... Joyce’s graceful touch and cutting humor undercut the potential for mawkishness and give the characters a rich complexity and depth. With a plucky protagonist and plenty of action, this is a winner.
Margery, Enid, Mr. Mundic, and the golden beetle are set on a collision course teeming with screwball comedic scenes deftly choreographed by Joyce ... A hilarious jaunt into the wilderness of women’s friendship and the triumph of outrageous dreams.