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An Entertaining and Blackly Comical Tale
on 22 February 2014
First published in 1977, Beryl Bainbridge's sharp, black comedy 'Injury Time' focuses on Edward Freeman, a middle-aged married accountant who, frightened of being discovered by his exceedingly competent wife, Helen, is conducting a very cautious affair with his mistress, Binny. Divorcee, mother of three, and fed up with being kept very much in the background, Binny manages to persuade Edward to invite a friend of his, George Simpson, and his wife, Muriel, to supper one evening. However, Binny's triumph is rather short-lived; for one thing she is worried about the appearance of her rather dilapidated house, her cooking skills are fairly limited, she has had to bribe her children to go out, and when Edward arrives, he seems uneasy and preoccupied. Added to that, the Simpsons get lost in Binny's rather insalubrious neighbourhood and arrive late to shrivelled lamb chops, Binny's intoxicated, leopard-skin coated friend Alma turns up uninvited and throws up on the carpet, and finally to add insult to injury, a gang of armed bank robbers barge their way into Binny's home and hold all five of them to ransom. Edward, believe it or not, is more worried about arriving late home and having to explain himself to Helen than he is about the possible repercussions of being held at gunpoint by a gang of inept robbers.
Winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel of 1977, this amusing, lively and eccentric little story doesn't let up on the action and entertainment from start to finish, but it's not laughter all the way, and some aspects are not just painfully comical, but are rather disturbing to read. That said, Beryl Bainbridge uses language beautifully and she has an unsentimental and sharply observant eye which she uses quite mercilessly on her rather flawed characters, making this an interesting, entertaining and, at times, a poignant read.