Aside from being well read and also familiar with all the post modern conventions of the novel, I was pleasantly surprised to realize at one point while reading THE BOTTLE FACTORY OUTING by Beryl Bainbridge that I had no idea where this book was going.
On the surface, this is a confined carefully plotted “small” novel taking place in a set period of time, in a set environment with a couple of well defined characters and several other important supporting characters.
But underneath is something else and that something else is open to debate or at least more than one type of genre/style description – Is it a black comedy? Commentary on the plight of women in a man’s world? Commentary on class structure? Commentary on the failure of communication between men and women? A murder mystery? A horror story?
The facts of the novel are simple – mousy Belinda, afraid to stick up for herself, a perpetual victim, and buxom six feet tall, manic, aggressive Freda are unlikely roommates in London who also work together at a small bottling plant (of wine) run by Italians. The book deals with the tragic, ridiculous, humorous events that transpire when they join their fellow mostly male employees for a weekend picnic outing at a nearby park.
Once I finished reading this book, I realized immediately how much I loved its uniqueness and its unwavering commitment to its own universe. This is a book written by a writer who not only knows specifically what they want to say but has a created an exact world for the telling of the story.
Hard to think of a time where I have encountered a writer with more control over their narrative, that is, control that is not seen by the reader nor stifles the plot. A fantastic book!