‘The Bottle Factory Outing’ by Beryl Bainbridge – “an outrageously funny and horrifying novel” – Graham Greene

‘The Bottle Factory Outing’ by Beryl Bainbridge    (1974)  –  219 pages

 

So much of literature today seems designed to placate everyone who reads it. ‘The Bottle Factory Outing’ will placate no one; it is uncompromising in its starkness and its gallows humor. It’s sheer originality is amazing; I doubt that there would be anyone else who could write a novel quite like ‘The Bottle Factory Outing’.

It is the story of two women, Freda and Brenda, who room together and work together in the same wine bottle factory in London. I picture the two women as both in their late twenties or early thirties. Freda is big, blonde, and aggressive while Brenda is more hapless and self-effacing, yet it is Brenda who was previously married.

They are the only women who work in the bottle factory besides an older Italian woman Maria. The factory is owned by Paganotti, an Italian entrepreneur transplanted to England, and most of the other employees are Italian men. Freda has her eyes and her heart set on fellow worker Vittorio.

It’s not so much that I want him, she thought, but I would like him to want me.”

Beryl Bainbridge

Meanwhile Brenda is beset by the unwanted fumbling attentions of the plant manager Rossi or what we would call sexual harassment today.

She couldn’t think how to discourage him – she didn’t want to lose her job and she hated giving offense. He had a funny way of pinching her all over, as if she was a mattress whose stuffing needed distributing more evenly.”

The novel centers around a Sunday outing for the workers in the bottling plant. I won’t go into any of the details of the shocking plot so that you can discover it for yourself.

‘The Bottle Factory Outing’ is a deadpan comedy like nothing you have ever read before. Somehow Beryl Bainbridge manages to keep a straight face while telling us this outrageous story.

 

Grade:    A

 

 

14 responses to this post.

  1. Yes this is on my wishlist.
    But not the edition with that dreadful cover! What were they thinking?

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. Loved the review! Years ago, I went on a major BBB (Beryl Bainbridge bender) and read several of her novels in successive. Your review reminds me how much I enjoyed them and how very long it’s been since I’ve read anything by her. As you so accurately point out, there’s really no one who produces anything that’s quite like her fiction — she’s truly an original. Hmm — maybe it’s time to check out the novels I haven’t read, such as Harriet Says!
    My favorite BB novels BTW are The Birthday Boys and The Dressmaker. The Bottle Factory Outing comes in third! I must admit, Master Georgie left me cold.

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    • Hi Janakay,
      Beryl Bainbridge. It’s a funny thing, I read her novel ‘A Quiet Life’ way back in the 1980s and gave it only 2 stars and thus gave up on reading her. Then recently I read some good things about ‘The Bottle Factory Outing’ and then I found that quote by Graham Greene. I will read anything Graham Greene liked. It turns out I loved ‘The Bottle Factory Outing’.

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  3. So glad you liked this one. It’s my second favourite Beryl, dark and comedic. I’ve read most of her books, but my favourite is Sweet William, which would be considered autofiction these days – it’s bittersweet and hilarious. Injury Time is also superb. I mostly prefer Bainbridge’s earlier novels before she turned to historical ones (although The Birthday Boys and Every Man for Himself are also excellent). She said she ran out of stories from her own life to mine for her novels, most of which had a bit of her in.

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    • Hi Annabel,
      Thank You, I must add ‘Sweet William’ and ‘Injury Time’ to my TBR list. It’s so good to find another great author who I had neglected previously. I do remember when her historical novels came out, but historical novels are not my main interest.
      I read that Beryl Bainbridge did work in a bottle factory at one time.

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  4. I loved this, so darkly funny.

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. A brilliant novel, dark and surprising.

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  6. I did enjoy this one greatly, and the English are certainly crazy about Beryl (with reason). I don’t like all her books equally, but adore some of her later historical novels. She is versatile. to say the least No wonder they gave her a special Booker Prize!

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Hi Kat,
      I had not heard about the Special Booker Prize for Beryl Bainbridge. I know she was shortlisted for the yearly Booker five times, never winning. That is quite an accomplishment considering all the good English writers.

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  7. […] break from it after reading a novel or two that didn’t quite do it for me.  This year, however, Tony’s excellent review of BB’s The Bottle Factory Outing reminded me of just how much I enjoyed Bainbridge’s elegant prose and her unique view of the […]

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