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Book Review: Injury Time by Beryl Bainbridge


Drew Payne

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It’s 1970s North London. Middle class and conservative accountant Edward is married to Helen, but he is also having an affair with Binny. But single mother Binny is tired of being the other woman and wants a social life with Edward, a part of one anyway, more than just occasional meals in restaurants were Edward is sure no one will recognise him. To this end Binny wants to host a dinner party for Edward and his friends George and Muriel Simpson. The two couples duly sit down for their dinner party, at Binny’s home, though she managed to arrange for the children to be elsewhere that night, but Edward has to leave by ten-thirty, so his wife doesn’t suspect. But Binny’s friend Alma gate crashes the party, because she’s having man trouble. Then four people barrage into the house, three young men with guns and a young woman with a pram.

This isn’t a thriller but instead its Bainbridge’s dark take upon middle-class married life and adultery. In her world adultery isn’t unfaithful and disguising, it is sordid, complicated and very messy. This book is populated with unhappy people living dull and damp lives. No one here is happy, even the criminals holding these people hostages are sad and rather useless. No one here is near living a fulfilled life.

Bainbridge captures so well the dull grey life of North London in the 1970s, with Binny’s house more than a little neglected. She also captures these people’s dull and rather sad lives. Being held hostage isn’t exciting or dangerous for these people, it just makes their lives more complicated.

Bainbridge is at her best here with her understanding of these people. They are not heroes or anti-heroes; they are people who lives are passing them by. Even when their lives are in danger, it is their unfulfilled existences that come to the front. When one of the women is raped, by one of their captures, she doesn’t feel violated or victimised, she just feels it’s her bad luck.

The ending of this novel is sudden and strange but it also feels strangely right.

This is a fine example of Bainbridge’s dark but accurate view of life, and an antidote to the Saccharin sweet view of the seventies, we all too often get now. Life wasn’t always better in flares.

Find it here on Amazon

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