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The Bottle Factory Outing (1974)

by Beryl Bainbridge

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4782038,471 (3.33)87
Named by the Observer as "one of the 100 greatest novels of all time," this dark comedy with a disturbing twist follows two working-class women in 1970s London. Unlikely friends Brenda and Freda share a rundown room in London and toil away at an Italian factory pasting labels onto wine bottles. Brenda, a shy and passive thirty-three-year-old brunette, recently ran away to the city to escape an abusive husband. Freda, meanwhile, is a rebellious twenty-six-year-old blonde with big dreams and a penchant for bossing people around.   The two women are the only English workers at the bottling facility, and their presence certainly stirs up trouble. Freda has a crush on the trainee manager, Vittorio, and tries to get close to him despite the fact that he's engaged to an Italian girl. Brenda, on the other hand, spends a fair amount of time trying to distance herself from the advances of the factory's manager, Mr. Rossi.   When Freda organizes a company outing, what's supposed to be a day of freedom and fun turns into a dark and chaotic tragedy. The workers plan to travel by van to a stately castle, where they will picnic and drink wine before visiting an African safari. But the van never shows up, and when they finally do make it to the castle, something goes fatally wrong.   Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, The Bottle Factory Outing was inspired by author Beryl Bainbridge's own experiences working as a cellar girl in the mid-twentieth century. Intertwining themes of loneliness and friendship, sexual frustration and personal power, passion and murder, this tragicomedy is a British classic that depicts working-class life as something both terribly morose and wickedly funny.   This ebook features an illustrated biography of Beryl Bainbridge including rare images from the author's estate.  … (more)
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English (19)  French (1)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Very dated but a good read nonetheless. A glimpse into a time long past when men and women had very different roles and outlooks, no modern stuff to distract or validate themselves. Dare I say it that people seemed to talk to each other and tolerate each other a bit more?

A great little story that reveals more of the era as it opens out. There is nothing deep or hidden here it is just a great story and character study. ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
The book is the first by Bainbridge I have read. It was billed as humorous and it is but it is all black comedy. Brenda irritated me a little with her passiveness but Freda was magnificent! ( )
  leslie.98 | Dec 3, 2019 |
The author shovels dreary characters onto dreary jobs in a dreary setting without giving them the slightest awareness that might save them from any normal indignity, but what happens is not just normal and the black humor of the resulting scramble is at least more lively than the earlier narrative. ( )
  quondame | Nov 5, 2019 |
Two young women somehow get together and get themselves a job in a factory that bottles wine. The factory is run by Italians and all the other workers are Italian.

Freda is 26 and is tall and "plump"—something like 5'10" and 225 lbs. She thinks of herself as an aspiring actress and carries herself as such. She never succeeds in any auditions, so needs some kind of other work to make ends meet. She's brash and bossy.

Brenda is about 35 and was once married to a brute who took her off to the country where they lived with his nasty mother. He spent his time out drinking with his buds. Eventually Brenda couldn't take it and ran away. She's very shy and will do almost anything to avoid open conflict.

Freda and Brenda join forces and take a bed-sit together. They need money, so they get a job working at a wine bottling factory run my an Italian, Mr. Paganotti. Virtually everyone else working at the factory is Italian, with the exception of Patrick, who is the van driver. Mr. Rossi, who is the factory manager, takes a shine to Brenda and keeps trying to get her into spaces where he can seduce her. Freda, on the other hand has decided she's in love with Vittorio, Mr. Paganotti's nephew (or cousin?), and who is nominally engaged to another cousin still living in Italy.

So, Freda conceives the idea that the workers in the factory should have an outing, where they visit a grand house and also a safari park. Her prime purpose is to give her a chance to seduce Vittorio. Things, naturally, do not go as planned.

On one level, this book is rather absurd, dark humor. But the ending is enigmatic and really makes little sense to me. It would seem that there are no attachments beyond lust or thralldom. I dunno, the first 70% of the book was mildly amusing, but the conclusion left me cold. Beryl Bainbridge was a well celebrated British author in her time, but based on this example, I'm not sure if I'll attempt another of her offerings or not.
( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
Brilliant black humour. Loved this. ( )
  ParadisePorch | Sep 24, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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Named by the Observer as "one of the 100 greatest novels of all time," this dark comedy with a disturbing twist follows two working-class women in 1970s London. Unlikely friends Brenda and Freda share a rundown room in London and toil away at an Italian factory pasting labels onto wine bottles. Brenda, a shy and passive thirty-three-year-old brunette, recently ran away to the city to escape an abusive husband. Freda, meanwhile, is a rebellious twenty-six-year-old blonde with big dreams and a penchant for bossing people around.   The two women are the only English workers at the bottling facility, and their presence certainly stirs up trouble. Freda has a crush on the trainee manager, Vittorio, and tries to get close to him despite the fact that he's engaged to an Italian girl. Brenda, on the other hand, spends a fair amount of time trying to distance herself from the advances of the factory's manager, Mr. Rossi.   When Freda organizes a company outing, what's supposed to be a day of freedom and fun turns into a dark and chaotic tragedy. The workers plan to travel by van to a stately castle, where they will picnic and drink wine before visiting an African safari. But the van never shows up, and when they finally do make it to the castle, something goes fatally wrong.   Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, The Bottle Factory Outing was inspired by author Beryl Bainbridge's own experiences working as a cellar girl in the mid-twentieth century. Intertwining themes of loneliness and friendship, sexual frustration and personal power, passion and murder, this tragicomedy is a British classic that depicts working-class life as something both terribly morose and wickedly funny.   This ebook features an illustrated biography of Beryl Bainbridge including rare images from the author's estate.  

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