Just read, The Bottle Factory Outing, Beryl Bainbridge

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How marvellous to spend a morning with Beryl. I’ve been reading The Bottle Factory Outing on my way to and from work and since I only had 50 pages left to read, I thought I’d do that at home this morning instead of taking the book with me. I don’t like finishing a book on the bus journey and then have to just sit there with nothing to do or, weep as I have done occasionally at a particularly sad ending. Charles Dickens usually reduces me to tears (not necessarily just the endings, selfless gestures will leave me an emotional wreck almost every time) and I’ll never forget finishing A Tale of Two Cities, I was in floods of tears, thought someone might have alerted the driver to stop the bus but morning commuters only notice if someone collapses in a fainting fit so I was left alone, weeping. Anyway, back to Beryl. The Bottle Factory Outing is a short book, very funny in that awkward, uncomfortable and a slightly cringy way. She had a gift of making her characters perfectly clear with just a gesture, a look or a mannerism, which I find wonderful and a joy to read – although this lot of characters are quite opposite of joyful. I’d read it and think ‘Oh don’t!’, that’s not going to happen and just sit there cringing as it did. I wasn’t expecting the story to turn out as it did although the cover quote did say ‘horrifying’ immediately after ‘funny’. That’s the beauty of Beryl’s writing, she’ll surprise you and you’ll smile (or gasp), be grateful and want to read more of her books. I first came across Beryl quite late, think it was when she didn’t win the Booker for Master Georgie and I only started reading her books a year or two ago when The Guardian’s 1,000 novels list reminded me. I thought Master Georgie was fantastic and loved According to Queeney too. Think Master Georgie remains my favourite of her books but would definitely recommend The Bottle Factory Outing, regardless of what some commenters on Good Reads say. I wander what Brenda and Freda, the main characters from The Bottle Factory Outing would have said to the posthumous ‘Best of Beryl’ Booker going to Master Georgie, think Brenda would have just tried ringing Stanley up and Freda… well, that’s probably a whole other story in itself.

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