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3.4 out of 5 stars
51
3.4 out of 5 stars
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on 8 June 2013
Freda and Brenda share a bedsit and work in a factory that bottles imported wines. Most of the other workers are Italian. Freda is always trying to make things happen while Brenda is passive in the extreme, but neither approach seems to lead to happiness. It wouldn't be revealing too much to say that the outing was not a fun day out, to say the least.

Beryl Bainbridge is always interesting, but this is not my favourite book of hers. I prefer her novels with historical settings, such as the brilliant Master Georgie. Humour is very subjective I simply did not find this book funny. She seems to be poking fun at the two women, while to me, they are just lost souls with sad lives. The second half, which is about the outing and its consequences, was much better. Relationships develop, things happen and the tone is much less whimsical.
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on 17 June 2017
A strange and compelling tale which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Beryl at her best.
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on 15 May 2017
Do not understand why it is meant to be so hilarious - quirky yes. I enjoyed it but would not put it on my list of best ever books, or books I would like to read again. Some fabulous writing and imagery though.
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on 22 June 2014
My first Beryl Bainbridge book and probably my last. Couldn't get into the characters and ended up skipping loads of pages. Which just goes to show, you can't please everybody!
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on 4 June 2016
Not bad.
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on 16 June 2016
Tries too hard to be period, but far too many gaffs and poor use of non period Americanised language. Garbage.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 February 2012
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 December 2015
The Bottle Factory Outing is the first book I’ve read by Beryl Bainbridge. I suspect this is not up there with her very best books however it certainly inspires me to want to read more of her work as as there is plenty to enjoy.

It put me in mind of my hazy recollections of Play For Today (1970s BBC adult drama TV programme), or the more playful work of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. It is quintessentially English, and also makes some very astute observations about culture, class, desire, difference, gender differences and human relationships.

Brenda and Freda, the two women at the heart of the book, share a dingy 1970s London bedsit (think Rising Damp) and together they redefine the term “the odd couple”. In addition to being flatmates, Brenda and Freda are also co-workers at the eponymous Bottle Factory which is an Italian-run north London wine bottling factory predominantly staffed by agricultural workers plucked, by the factory's Italian owner, from a life of subsistence farming in Bologna to London, the relative land of plenty. They are a tight knit bunch who do not know quite what to make of the two English women in their midst....

Freda is loud, large and domineering whilst Brenda is compliant, quiet, serious, educated and desperate not to give offence - despite a less than attractive description, and to Freda’s chagrin - Brenda also seems to attract numerous male admirers who try to possess her.

By the day of the bottle factory’s outing, sexual tensions are running high. Beyond that, the less you know about the plot the better, suffice it to say that a huge amount happens in a very short space of time (the book is about 200 pages long) and whilst implausible it is consistently inventive, entertaining, insightful, blackly comic and beguiling.
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on 15 January 2013
“The Bottle Factory Outing” is a misleadingly jolly title for what is, for the most part, a very dark book. The lead characters are two women who share a bedsit and work at an Italian wine bottling plant. Both women are a bit odd and both carry vast amounts of emotional baggage. One is afraid to say what she thinks while the other is the complete opposite and I didn’t like either of them. Freda, the bossy one, organises an outing for the factory workers and to say that it doesn’t go at all well would be a huge understatement.
I have read other novels and stories by Beryl Bainbridge and so I am familiar with her “gritty” style but even by her standards, this is grim. It is, of course, fantastically well written and every bit as evocative as you would expect; as I read, I could see every detail of Brenda and Freda’s dreadful bed-sitting room, the drab factory environment where they worked and had I been in Windsor Great Park 40+ years ago, I am sure I could have located the exact spot where the picnic took place. However, I thought the plot was a bit thin and, in places, nothing short of ludicrous. Also, I found the characters difficult in this particular book. A lot of them were the sort of caricatures that Dickens would have been proud of (I don’t imagine our Beryl made any new fans among Irish or Italian people with this book) and none of them have any redeeming features at all. I was also disappointed by the ending; the story just sort of fizzled out. So this is, for my personal taste, a bit too depressing but it is a wonderful period piece all the same.
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on 19 July 2017
An interesting and enjoyable read.
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