The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge (Holiday Reading part 2)

A novel from 1974 from a writer I have often heard described as a bit forgotten or underestimated. It is a clever book, with a deceptively simple style that disguises some deep emotions and some dark deeds.

Set in South East England at an Italian-owned and run bottling plant for wine and spirits, it centres on the experiences of two English girls who work there. The narrative perspective shifts, illustrating with subtlety how much is misunderstood between the characters.

I wondered while reading it whether the characters were really believable but by the time I finished it I thought they were. Much is unsaid or merely hinted. But is life not like that?

It is quite short, 200 pages of large print in the Abacus edition I read. I think it is, most of all, diverting. A bit quirky, a bit strange, a bit unsettling, funny in parts and dream-like in others. It also, to today’s reader, reminds us how much day to day life has changed in Britain in the last 40 years or so.

It reminded me a little, stylistically, of the Ballad of Peckham Rye, by Muriel Spark, which was written in 1960. Very allusive (a bit too allusive for my taste, in the case of the Ballad of Peckham Rye), leaving much to the reader’s interpretation.

But, all in all, an intriguing read.

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