The following article summarizes the original event which is listed below the summary.

Book Notes | ‘Miss Benson’s Beetle’

May 19, 2023, at 2pm

Miss Marjory Benson hates her job teaching cookery to young girls in England in 1950, and one day she walks out of the school. Once she gets home, she formulates a plan. Her father was an entomologist and shared with her his interest in the myth of a golden beetle in New Caledonia. She’s going to find it!

Marjory knows nothing about New Caledonia, but plots her escape from England. She advertises for a French-speaking assistant, interviews candidates, plans her travel, and orders supplies for the beetle-finding expedition. Enid Pretty—who applied but wasn’t interviewed for the position and is Marjory’s total opposite—confronts Marjory at the train station and soon the two of them are off together on the expedition to New Caledonia via train, ship, and airplane.

Enid proves invaluable to the expedition, stealing equipment they need, including a Jeep, and endearing herself to the officials and local people. Marjorie and Enid establish their base camp in a ramshackle cabin near the top of the mountain and start collecting insects, ever looking for the elusive golden beetle. Unbeknownst to them, they are being stalked by the unstable and dangerous Mr. Mundic, who also applied for the expedition assistant position but was rejected.

Members of the UMRA Book Club had mixed reactions to the historical novel. Some felt much of it was unbelievable. Others felt one just had “to go with it” and not try to make sense of it. Some thought it was hilarious; others thought it was sad.

The overriding themes in the book were noted by the book group members: the friendship that grew between the two disparate women helped them forge on with their quest, people destroyed by war (Marjory’s four brothers were killed in WWII and Mr. Mundic suffered horrific PTSD), and appreciation of the natural world.

Do the two friends find the golden beetle? No spoiler here—you’ll have to read this quirky book to discover the answer.

— Stephanie Daily, UMRA Book Club I




Book Club announces May 19 and summer meeting plans

Fri, May 19 2023, 2pm

Meeting will be held via Zoom.

UMRA member Stephanie Daily will lead a discussion of Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce, which debuted as a New York Times bestseller in 2020, when the UMRA Book Club meets at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 19.

Beth Bedell will lead a discussion of Flight Behavior, a 2012 novel by Barbara Kingsolver, on June 16. And Diane Madlon-Kay will lead a discussion of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, first published in 1940, when the group meets on July 21.

All three meetings will be held via Zoom. Email Pat Tollefson at [email protected] for more information, including suggestions for starting a new book club.


Upcoming Events

Event Date: July 26, 2024, at 2pm

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Event Date: August 5, 2024, at 9:30am

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Event Date: August 16, 2024, at 2pm

Kathy Cramer will lead the discussion of The Bookbinder by Pip Williams, a book set in 1914 Oxford chronicling the life of Peggy who works in the University bindery, but craves a life beyond binding books but to being a scholar herself.

Event Date: August 28, 2024, at 5:30pm

Enjoy a two-hour cruise on the Jonathan Padelford, leaving from the Harriet Island dock in St. Paul, boarding time at 5:30 p.m. We will have a brief program on board by Patrick Nunnally from the River Life Program of the Institute on the Environment.

Event Date: August 31, 2024, at 11:59pm

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Event Date: September 10, 2024, at 10:30am

Autumn is a wonderful season in Minnesota so plan to join UMRA at the Andersen Horticultural Library at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Kristen Mastel, head librarian and curator, will reveal its treasure trove of publications and artifacts relating to plant history, horticulture, and natural history. After the tour, those who are interested may stay to eat lunch together, sitting outside if the weather is nice. Later, you are invited to a one-hour tram tour of the entire Arboretum that includes natural areas of flowering shrubs, bogs, and forests, family garden and landscaping showpieces, and the red barn farm

Event Date: September 10, 2024, at 12:30pm

After a summer break the UMRA Photo Club will next meet September 10, 2024 in the meeting room of the Hennepin County St. Anthony Branch Library. For those interested in lunch, meet at the Great Dragon at 11:30 am. For September the THEME will be Curves

Event Date: September 16, 2024, at 10am

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Event Date: September 30, 2024, at 10am

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Event Date: October 13, 2024, at 9am

This trip begins in Madrid and ends in Barcelona with stops 3 cities in between. International round trip airfare from NYC is included in the quoted price. See the attached a copy of the e-brochure with highlights and complete itinerary.  Register by May 1.