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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BOTTLING OUT
Whatever this story might be thought to lack, it's not originality. Bottling wine out of imported casks and labelling the bottles in an Italian-owned plant in London is presumably a mechanised operation these days. However time was when people did these jobs, and they were real people with real hearts and souls like the rest of us.

These are `small' people with...
Published on 14 Oct 2008 by DAVID BRYSON

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3.0 out of 5 stars Expected more
There's something that just does not work for me in this book. First of all the characters just don't seem believable, no where would you find a set of people who not one of them showed any common sense in the situation which arose. The story line was just plain stupid, I was wondering is this meant to be a black comedy. I was hoping for a plot which held a surprise or...
Published 2 months ago by KathB France


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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BOTTLING OUT, 14 Oct 2008
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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Whatever this story might be thought to lack, it's not originality. Bottling wine out of imported casks and labelling the bottles in an Italian-owned plant in London is presumably a mechanised operation these days. However time was when people did these jobs, and they were real people with real hearts and souls like the rest of us.

These are `small' people with `small' lives. The hopes and aspirations of the two leading characters are small. Neither they nor anyone else in the story mean any harm to anyone, and nobody does anything particularly `wrong'. Death touches one of the little group on their little works outing to Windsor in the rain, and the thing that makes the whole tale so terribly sad is that they can all get away with their grotesque obsequies for her - nobody else will ever know she is dead.

How easy you will find the book to read I can't say. By the standards of modern novels it is short, the style of writing is the opposite of flamboyant or elaborate, and you may have to keep reminding yourself who is who until you are well into the plot. The characters are differentiated well enough, I suppose, but what they all do say and think is within a very restricted range, and that just goes with the territory.

I found it, genuinely, deeply touching. Death the great leveller is cheated of his levelling at least to the extent that his victim's send-off is unusual in the extreme. If the rest of them can hold their tongues nobody will learn of her death because more or less nobody else knew she was alive. How many leave our society unnoticed, I wonder, without either such a unique funeral or such a gifted narrator to bring us their story.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Legs, 19 Nov 2002
By 
taking a rest - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
A wrist rolls the ruby red liquid of the fermented grape, and then pauses, and the glass is watched. For wine does not indiscriminately settle in a glass like lesser liquids. It falls in lines, and by these lines the spirit is partially judged, its legs are appraised.

I have read enough of Ms. Beryl Bainbridge's writing to state comfortably that there is probably no topic that she cannot spin a great tale from. "The Bottle Factory Outing", is above all else about people, which is in keeping with the author's previous work. The primary characters are two women that while they share the same bed, with an impenetrable wall of pillows between them, could not be more different. One is passive, almost a victim, desiring more not to upset her day-to-day existence than to stand up for herself. The other is a warrior defending not only what she perceives as her territory, but any turf that may catch her eye as well. The former may be an unsure individual; however she does not delude herself. The latter has confidence that causes her to believe that which she wants despite any reality she witnesses.

The book is unique as it has more than one instance when the story could reasonably end. The story is in no way overextended, just marvelously structured. The event of course is the employee outing and all that takes place from the early morning start, to a surrealistic second act, and finally the disturbing close of the third. Personalities that have become familiar do not conduct themselves in keeping with the book's start. Honor, which is repeatedly called upon to justify, draw or inflict guilt, becomes many things other than an honorable trait. And finally some of the worst traits of humanity do not begin and end with a single act, but are repeatedly compounded by a rationalized conspiracy.

If you have never read this writer's work, you most probably have missed enjoying a wonderfully talented mind. You may pick a work of hers at random and not be disappointed.

And the next time you raise a glass of wine, I guaranty you will think of this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Odd Couple - But More Bitter Lemon Than Jack Lemmon!, 26 July 2012
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This review is from: The Bottle Factory Outing (Paperback)
..........Beryl Bainbridge's Bottle Factory Outing is a book about a chalk-and-cheese-couple, who reminded me of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in the film of Neil Simon's play "The Odd Couple" - complete opposites living a 'can't live with you but can't live without you either!' kind of existence, which is farcical and funny, but with Beryl Bainbridge there is a much more acidic, sharper, and very, very, bitter taste to the comedy - this is the sort of comedy that's just as likely to make you wince and grimace as it is to make you smile and laugh!

It's been about three weeks since I finished Beryl Bainbridge's The Bottle Factory Outing. In that time I've read and reviewed other books. But I've been putting off writing a review of this book because I just didn't know what to make of it. It's an odd book, and as I mentioned before, it's about a very odd couple!

Brenda and Freda are friends (sort of!), flatmates, and work colleagues at the bottling factory where they both work on the production line. Both have had their ups and downs, and to be honest, if you'd kept a score throughout their lives, probably a lot more downs than ups!! The story sees them preparing for and then going on a works outing which they are organising, partly to add a little change and colour to their fairly drab lives and partly because Freda has an ulterior motive - to get her hands on Vittorio, the relative of the factory owner and the most desirable of the many Italian immigrants working in the factory. Much of Brenda and Freda's lives revolve around the everyday and their work at the factory, owned by the almost mysterious Mr Paganotti, who is mentioned throughout the book but never actually appears. There's a host of strong Italian support characters, mostly from the factory, such as the unusual and amorous Mr Rossi, with a slightly eccentric Irishman chucked in for good measure!

However, it's the relationship between Freda and Brenda that is the heart and soul of the book. But I hesitate to call it a friendship - it reads and feels more like a kind of social and emotional marriage of convenience than a friendship. And from the outset, the odd feel to the book is rooted in this slightly bizarre pair. Their first meeting is odd - Freda virtually force-feeding Brenda into being adopted/taken under Freda's wing(not a terribly cosy or safe place to be!!), after a chance encounter in a shop as Brenda flees from a disastrous marriage, a seriously mad mother-in-law and a husband who is the village 'soak' essentially! The oddness is maintained in their everyday lives - for example, separated at night in the bed they share by a bolster of books of all things!

The first part of the book sets up the story and while mildly amusing in several places it's a gentler kind of comedy here. It's at the factory outing where the story really takes off into a whole new level of odd and where it really does become the blackest of black comedies! From this point on I'll say nothing more about the story for fear of spoiling it but suffice to say it's full of twists, blind alleys and an eventual denouement which is both hilarious and tragic at the same time! I laughed at it - but I'm ashamed to admit that I laughed at it!

So if it was hilarious, why wait so long pondering what to make of it before I came to review it?

I think the answer lies in the "black" part of black comedy - I found this to be so sharp, so acutely observed and so raw in places that it was almost uncomfortable to read. The tensions between Freda and Brenda or between them and the other characters are painful to observe in places - you almost feel embarrassed - it's a bit like when you see a couple rowing in public and you want the ground to open up and swallow you even though you don't even know them!

The few Beryl Bainbridge books I've read are all slightly quirky and odd - populated with characters who, if they were flat shapes would be all corners and sharp edges rather than smooth and curved! This is no exception. And yet, on reflection I did enjoy it - and I judge that partly on the basis that I laughed out loud several times when I was reading this book! (that in itself was an uncomfortable feeling though as I read this book on the dreaded, evil, Kindle, while walking the dog in the park - the looks from other dog-walkers and park -users at the man with the dog suddenly breaking out into laughter will forever be in my memory and associated with this book!).

Another feature of the other Beryl Bainbridge books I've read is that you get plenty of 'bangs for your bucks' with her. This was a short and very easy to read novel - and yet it's got comedy, farce, horror, violence, love, poverty, royalty, and much more, all packed into it! You can't do anything but like the way she writes and the characters she draws, who don't just leap off the page at you but who also grab you by the throat and pin you down until you submit!

Overall - the book is odd - it's about an odd couple in an odd relationship living in odd circumstances. It's a book that is quirky odd, cruelly odd, viciously odd, uncomfortably odd, and blackly odd, but overall it's really hilariously, terrifically, odd!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh To Bottle The Joy This Book Brings, 28 Mar 2012
By 
Simon Savidge Reads "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Bottle Factory Outing (Paperback)
`The Bottle Factory Outing' is a tale of Brenda and Freda, these two women live in a shared bedsit room, separated in bed by a bolster made of books, and I think it is fair to say that being so chalk and cheese if Freda hadn't happened upon and `adopted' Brenda after she left her husband and the countryside to come to London they wouldn't have ever made a likely paid of friends. Yet friends and subsequently co-workers they have become and it is the events leading up to, during (something awful happens, though what I won't say) and after a work outing, from the bottle factory, which Freda has organised that this novel revolves around.

The novel is really one of two halves, and this made it an intriguing first read of any of Beryl's work for me so might for others, as the first half is a comedy of errors and rather farcical before certain events take place giving the novel a much darker and more disturbing twist making it a very black comedy. As I started to read, after some initial confusion over which woman was which for the first ten or so pages, I was pretty much instantly hooked. I loved how Beryl builds the women's characters, and their polar opposites, so vividly and so funnily with small observations of their behaviour. I laughed out loud a lot.

The dynamic of the two women is really the driving force initially for the novel. They are friends and also constantly in competition. I would say they loved to love each other and loved to loathe each other in equal measure. Brenda is the quieter, slighter, more serious brunette who seems to make any man she meets want to ravish her and Freda is the louder, brasher, bossier, plumper one who is set on trying to seduce the son and heir, Vittorio, of the bottle factory business she works in. It is this desire that leads to the outing on which everything changes and the novel sets up a gear as things start to unfold.

There were so many things that I loved about Beryl Bainbridge's writing that it might be hard to encompass them all, I will endeavour to try though. First of all is how much is in such a small book. At a mere 200 pages, and in fairly big print which could be devoured in a few hours, so much happens that when you have finished you find yourself recapping it all and thinking `did that all just happen in this book?' There are funerals, hilarious seductions in cellars, hilarious seductions in a shared bedroom and a shared bathroom, a mother in law with a grudge to bear and a gun in her handbag, a fight in Windsor Castle, horse riding with the Queen's funereal regiment, something awful on an outing which leads to a strange trip to a safari park, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The writing is also incredible. Beryl Bainbridge manages to write what is essentially a farcical and rather unbelievable story, though you never know, but builds the atmosphere, tensions and characters in such a way that you fully believe this series of events could happen. Her main characters are incredibly flawed and can be rather vile, in fact so can the minor ones, but they walk off the page and you like them, you want to read about them. The most impressive thing is how in a mere sentence or two Bainbridge can give you a place and/or person in mere lines, no word is wasted but it's not so sparse you have to fill in the gaps, not many authors can do this and I really admire it when I read it.

As you may be able to tell I really loved `The Bottle Factory Outing'. It was nothing like I expected it to be and was a wonderful discovery. I loved Beryl Bainbridge's sense of humour both when it was light and dark, I loved her prose, I just thought it was great and am quite thrilled to have discovered an author who I now cannot wait to read more of. My only slight wish is that I had discovered her before she died a few years ago and could have gone to see her speak, though her voice definitely lives on in a novel like this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surreal, 21 Feb 2012
By 
sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Bottle Factory Outing (Paperback)
This starts out fairly tamely; two young women share a grotty bedsit. Their personalities could not be more different- loud, assertive, overweight Freda and self-effacing Brenda who has just escaped an unhappy marriage. They work in a bottling plant otherwise staffed almost entirely by Italians who are devoted to the boss, Mr Paganotti, whom we never actually meet, but whose influence shapes events.
Freda arranges a staff outing which goes horribly wrong from the first moment; this part of the story transports the reader from the merely shabby and mundane to an almost dreamlike and surreal scenario.
What should be a tragic ending to the book is somehow more of a black comedy. The death of a certain character felt less sad than some of the events in her life.
'Perhaps she was the lucky one, to go quickly and so young. For himself, years hence, there might be disease- pain: like an olive on the ground he would wither and turn black.'
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3.0 out of 5 stars Expected more, 30 Jan 2014
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There's something that just does not work for me in this book. First of all the characters just don't seem believable, no where would you find a set of people who not one of them showed any common sense in the situation which arose. The story line was just plain stupid, I was wondering is this meant to be a black comedy. I was hoping for a plot which held a surprise or twist but you you were just thinking is that it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fun read., 16 Jan 2014
By 
K. Slater (Lancashire, UK) - See all my reviews
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A story about a wine bottling plant staff outing to Windsor where bizarre and funny incidents happen. Different nationalities and the varied characteristics of the workers in the story leads to an unexpected ending. Overall it was a very well written and amusing read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Read, 17 Sep 2013
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I read this on holiday as it was recommended by a friend. So glad I did. Really enjoyed everything about this book. I read it in two sittings, compulsive reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Awkward, very awkward ..., 5 Sep 2013
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This review is from: The Bottle Factory Outing (Paperback)
I am a huge fan of Beryl Bainbridge's work. She has to be one of the most economical writers ever, and seems to be able to use less words than any other author I know to describe complex situations and characters.
Once again, she has produced a relatively short novel involving a set of circumstances that would appear to be mundane and ordinary, but that turn into a tragi-comedy. Everything is awkward in this book - the relationship between the two main characters, Brenda & Freda, their working life and culture clashes with their Italian male colleagues, the workforce's subservience to their boss, their work itself, and, of course, the works outing ...
I felt awkward and uncomfortable reading this book, which, I assume, is exactly the feeling that the author wanted me to have. Therein lies her genius.
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3.0 out of 5 stars disappointed, 2 Sep 2013
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This review is from: The Bottle Factory Outing (Paperback)
book club very disappointed in this book, not a laugh a page as said. Characters we felt were very muddled, although very much of its time. The two main characters Freda and Brenda being very much woman of that time....,just only woman!!! We didn't give a very high score, a great shame as most of us had not read Beryl Bainbridge before.
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The Bottle Factory Outing
The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge (Paperback - 2 Sep 2010)
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