Winner of the Whitbread Literary Award: A darkly humorous tale about a 1970s dinner party gone terribly wrong by one of Britain’s most renowned authors.
Edward is normally a cautious man, especially when it comes to his mistress, Binny. But he feels bad that his lover never gets to enjoy the small intimacies of marriage, like sorting his socks or picking out gifts for his family. It is out of this guilt that Edward agrees to throw a dinner party with his “real friends” so Binny can feel more involved in his life and play hostess for a night. But there’s one catch: Edward has to be home no later than eleven to keep his wife from discovering his infidelity.
The invitees to the secret soiree are a discreet couple: Simpson, an aspiring adulterer himself, and Muriel, a simultaneously disapproving and open-minded housewife. But as Binny haphazardly prepares the food, shoos her children out for the night, and frets about the aesthetics of her front lawn, the guests take an unintended detour through her run-down neighborhood. Edward, meanwhile, is silently panicking—and drinking.
Simpson and Muriel finally arrive, and when everyone sits down to eat, it’s already a quarter past nine. Things get off to a decent, if awkward, start, until there’s a loud knock at the door. It’s Binny’s scandalously drunk old friend, Alma, who proceeds to vomit and pass out. But what should be the end of the evening is only the beginning. More unexpected guests arrive—this time it’s bank robbers with sawed-off shotguns. What follows is a chaotic and hilarious series of events, replete with a fake ping-pong match, a baby carriage full of cash, and a delirious getaway. Edward soon begins to worry less about getting home on time, and more about making it home at all.
Equal parts dark comedy and thriller, Injury Time is a witty take on 1970s social mores by one of the most celebrated British authors, Beryl Bainbridge, who was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize five times.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Beryl Bainbridge including rare images from the author’s estate.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||4 MB|
About the Author
Born in Liverpool and raised in nearby Formby, Bainbridge spent her early years working as an actress, leaving the theater to have her first child. Her first novel, Harriet Said . . ., was written around this time, although it was rejected by several publishers who found it “indecent.” Her first published works were Another Part of the Wood and An Awfully Big Adventure, and many of her early novels retell her Liverpudlian childhood. A number of her books have been adapted for the screen, most notably An Awfully Big Adventure, which is set in provincial theater and was made into a film by Mike Newell, starring Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant. She later turned to more historical themes, such as the Scott Expedition in The Birthday Boys, a retelling of the Titanic story in Every Man for Himself, and Master Georgie, which follows Liverpudlians during the Crimean War. Her no-word-wasted style and tight plotting have won her critical acclaim and a committed following. Bainbridge regularly contributed articles and reviews to the Guardian, Observer, and Spectator, among others, and she was the Oldie’s longstanding theater critic. In 2008, she appeared at number twenty-six in a list of the fifty most important novelists since 1945 compiled by the Times (London). At the time of her death, Bainbridge was working on a new novel, The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress, which was published posthumously.
Read an Excerpt
By Beryl Bainbridge
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1997 Beryl Bainbridge
All rights reserved.
During the partners' lunch, old Gifford talked indistinctly about the Rawlinson account: something to do with the new man on the board not having a first-class brain – he didn't come up to scratch. From time to time Gifford's shoulder dipped below the level of the tablecloth; he seemed to have dropped something. Hatters, from the Overseas department, told a story involving a doctor and a woman patient who heard pop music whenever her husband made love to her. Edward Freeman, who was seated opposite, missed the punch line. The fellow appeared to be muttering, or perhaps his own hearing was at fault. Alarmed by this new defect – lately he had been forced to wear spectacles when attempting the crossword – he stuck his finger in his ear and waggled it vigorously back and forth. Hatters, flourishing his fork in the air, was saying quite clearly that the engine of his car needed tuning. Edward allowed Mrs Chalmers to serve him with a second helping of lamb; he wasn't hungry but he contributed twenty pounds a month toward the cost of the office lunches and was damned if he was letting a penny of it go to waste. Binny said it was killing him, all that meat stewed in wine and all those puddings consumed every day of the week. 'Men of your age', she constantly warned him, 'are at risk. You'll have a heart attack.' At this moment, with less than six hours to go before the dinner party, he felt that a small coronary might do him the world of good. He didn't think Binny would visit him in hospital – she wasn't malicious. He could just lie there for several days, undergoing tests, doing a spot of reading, trying to sort himself out.
Even so, when lunch was over he took the lift to his office and denied himself the exertion of climbing three flights of stairs. The telephone rang as he came through the door. It was his wife Helen.
'Are you going to be very late tonight?' she asked. 'Or just late?'
'Oh, I shan't be late,' he said. 'I mean, I'll try to get away early.'
'You usually try,' she said.
There was a slight pause. Edward looked at the photograph of her, framed in leather, on the windowsill. She was holding a baby. On his desk was a snapshot of the same baby, several years older, crouched in a blurred garden cradling a rabbit in his arms.
'You see,' she said, 'if I leave my meeting early and you don't get back for hours, it's a bit of a waste of effort ... on my part. Do you see what I mean?'
'Yes,' he said. 'But I shouldn't think old Simpson will want to hang on too long. Not with his leg.'
'That's true enough.'
'Look here,' he said desperately. 'Better be on the safe side. One can never tell with old Simpson. I suppose I could be late ... I don't want to spoil your meeting. I don't want you to scamper away only to find I've got caught up.'
'All right then, dear,' she said. 'I won't.'
When she'd rung off he felt aggrieved. He wasn't always late, not every night. Tuesday for instance he never visited Binny, and hardly ever on a Thursday. That was the night her youngest daughter went to Brownies and was inclined to be boisterous afterwards. And what about those numerous occasions when he'd made a special effort to get home early, left his evening post unsigned, faced the frightful rush-hour traffic and arrived in time to catch Helen backing down the path in the Mini, gadding off to yet another meeting? She wasn't the only one who could imply there was cause for complaint, not by any means.
The telephone rang again. He knew at once it was Binny, because when he said Hello there was no reply, merely a sort of offended breathing. There had evidently been some deficiency of feeling in his voice when he first greeted her, a degree of casualness that she hadn't liked. 'Hello, Hello,' he persisted. He kept his eyes fixed on the snapshot of the rabbit struggling in his son's arms. He couldn't remember what they'd called the animal ... Tiger? ... Twinkle? The beastly thing had turned the garden into a waste land before dying of old age and being shovelled under the damson tree.
'Look here,' he lied. 'I'm frightfully busy. May I ring you back?'
'Don't bother,' said Binny, and put down the receiver.
He dialled her number immediately. She made him wait at least half a minute before answering. 'Look, don't be angry,' he pleaded. 'I had somebody in my room.'
'You don't seem to realise I'm a very busy man. I had poor old Woodford with me.'
'What's poor about him?'
'They're leaving him with nothing,' Edward said. 'The Inland Revenue are bleeding him white.'
'What do you call nothing?' demanded Binny.
He knew he shouldn't get involved in this sort of discussion – he always came off the worse for wear and was apt to be indiscreet about clients' accounts. 'They're taking eighty-three pence in the pound,' he confided, voice thin with outrage.
'If they take that much,' said Binny, 'he must be rolling. It still leaves him with seventeen p and if he's paying supertax I bet the seventeen ps jolly well add up. You can hardly expect me to pass round the hat.'
They dwelt on old Woodford's tax problems, loudly, for quite some time. Edward found her tone of voice offensive. After all, he'd taken a considerable risk in agreeing to invite Simpson and his wife to dinner at Binny's house. He hadn't so much agreed as been goaded into the arrangement. Binny had intimated in her forthright way that she was sick to death of being introduced only to those boozy male acquaintances of his who thought he was a hell of a dog for getting his leg over. She wanted to meet his real friends, preferably a married couple. 'I'm not going to be hidden in the shadows of the saloon bar any longer,' she'd said. She was perfectly within her rights of course. It was rotten for her, reeling out of the dentist alone, unable to depend upon him at Christmas, forced to see him at times mostly convenient to Helen. He gave her so little; he denied her the simple pleasures a wife took for granted – that business of cooking his meals, remembering his sister's birthday, putting intricate little bundles of socks into his drawer. All he had to offer were those pitifully few hours of an evening, if and when Helen chose to go to one of her meetings.
And life, as Binny so often observed, was perilously short. She'd remarked upon it the first time they met, at a wine and cheese party given by clients of his – a firm of estate agents in Chalk Farm. He was early and knew no one save the senior partner, and was smarting because Helen had refused to accompany him; she preferred instead to attend an Inter Action group in Hampstead where she sometimes knelt on the floor and stroked people seated on either side. It was his impression afterwards that, when he entered the estate agents' office, he'd noticed a pale and diminutive woman standing by the window. She wore a bunch of artificial flowers pinned to the collar of her dress and it was these same limp violets that enabled him later, much later, when she'd manoeuvred him behind a filing cabinet, to identify Binny. During the evening she had unaccountably gained weight and colour from somewhere. Her eyes shone brilliantly. She kept asking him if he was happy. It was then, just as he began to feel undeniably cheerful – he heard his own laughter loud above the murmur of voices – that she spoke of death, likening middle age to the second half of a football match. The game, she said, long since decided, was drawing to a close. Short of breath and flecked with mud, trembling in every limb, the players struggled up and down the pitch, waiting for the final whistle to blow. 'Although I am still active in mid field,' she told him, 'it may be that I won't play to the end. It's possible that I shall be sent off.' 'Ah no,' he cried, filled with a tenderness that was surely out of place after so short an acquaintanceship. 'Not you.' But Binny hadn't heard him. She said she herself had enjoyed a life packed full of incident. She wondered if others could say the same. He was aware that as she talked the tips of her fingers brushed his own. She had travelled extensively in Europe, been divorced, known many lovers. Suddenly depressed, he longed to go home and watch television. He tried to catch the attention of the senior partner, and failed. Binny swayed a little on her feet and leant against him; the violets rustled on her breast. He escorted her to a terraced house in Fulton Street and fell over a bicycle in the hall. Shaken by her acceptance of death, he confessed that the passage of time affected him in a retrospective sort of way. He didn't fear the deterioration that old age might bring – increased blood pressure, varicose veins, palpitations of the heart. It was waking in the night, as he did frequently, from dreams clear in every detail, of gardens glimpsed from windows, roads travelled, rooms dwelt in as a boy, that caused him agitation. He regretted that he no longer experienced the present or looked forward to the future. Unusually articulate and rubbing his shin bone, bruised from contact with the mudguard in the hall, he would have confided more but felt he was becoming boring. She made him a cup of coffee and enlisted his help with her tax problems, crying out in the middle of his discourse upon capital growth and percentages that she needed to embrace him. Remembering her formidable list of lovers, he was concerned she might be riddled with disease. He evaded her outstretched arms and circled the living room. As he walked, his life flew with him – the edge of a sports-field one day in summer, his father's hand scuttling into a leather glove, the glimmer of a prefect's badge lying in an oblong of sunlight on a desk – at last, desperate to blot out the shrill blast of that final whistle, he knelt at Binny's feet and crawled with her on to the dusty sofa.
He thought possibly it was the unsatisfactory briefness of his moments with Binny that explained his continuing desire to see her. God knows, she was rude enough to him, but then they spent so little time together that her insulting behaviour never had a chance to build up into anything sufficiently awful; she never actually hit him. She was too often interrupted by the children, who were either in and using the telephone, or out and telephoning in. They were always being flung out of pool-rooms or cafés, or held at railway stations for the nonpayment of fares. Once the youngest child's hamster started to die the moment Edward entered the house. Edward had been required to spoon brandy down the animal's throat until it passed on. The sight of those delicate paws, tipped with pink, feebly scratching the air, reminded Edward of his own inner conflict. There were some doors that would never open. Binny was a wonderful mother, but she didn't seem to realise he was a very busy man and his time was limited. They could never do anything until her ten-year-old had settled down for the night. They could usually start doing something at about five to eleven, and then they had to do it very quickly because Edward had to leave at quarter past eleven. He was always whispering frantically into Binny's ear what he might do if only they had a whole evening together, and she grew quite pale and breathless and hugged him fearfully tightly in the hall, mostly when seeing him out. He loved her when she had difficulty in breathing. Just thinking about it made him feel disturbed.
Binny was telling him in a hectoring manner that she bet old Woodford, despite extreme poverty, had two cars and a mansion in the country.
He said bitterly, 'I wish to God the Simpsons weren't coming to dinner tonight. I wish we were on our own.' In order to ensure a peaceful evening without undue excitement, for the first time in all the years he had known her the children were spending the night elsewhere.
'I'm not calling it dinner,' said Binny ominously.
'Oh, aren't you?' he said.
'No, I'm bloody well not.'
'Well, what are you calling it?' he asked uneasily.
Evidently she was worried about the food she was preparing. She had telephoned, most likely, to ask him if the menu she had decided upon was suitable, and that first insensitively expressed Hello of his had depressed her. He didn't think she was a very good cook – not that she'd ever made him a meal – but he sensed that her attitude to food was rather casual. When he took her out to dinner quite normal things, like artichokes, annoyed her. She said they were a waste of time. He hadn't actually spotted two plates in her kitchen with the same pattern round the rim. However, none of that counted at the moment. She could burn every morsel to be eaten and dispense entirely with knives and forks, if only the evening passed without repercussions. It was vital that nobody dropped in. He longed to ask Binny if she had taken precautions against such an event, but he knew her reply would be deliberately calculated to alarm. She would probably inform him she was hauling up the drawbridge any moment now but could he tell her anything about the little man on the corner in the mackintosh, the one with the binoculars and the camera. He hadn't met Simpson's wife before, but he was fairly certain there was no danger there. He gathered that Simpson's wife had once studied Esperanto, and Simpson boasted that she regularly visited the local pub with a girlfriend. She was obviously pretty broadminded and not the sort to go round telling everyone he was carrying on with another woman. But what if a neighbour of Binny's dropped in during the meal and turned out to be a friend of a mutual friend? Possibly a friend of the girl who went to the pub with Simpson's wife. And what if they happened to know someone who went to the same Liberal party meetings as Helen or employed the same cleaning lady? It could get back. People were always remarking on the smallness of the world since the invention of the aeroplane.
Dreadfully agitated, Edward shuffled the papers on his desk and thought he experienced a sharp pain in his chest.
'What's up with you?' asked Binny. 'What did you make that noise for?'
He denied that he had made any noise out of the ordinary. There was silence for several seconds until Binny said he was to stop worrying about being caught out. He protested it was the last thing on his mind.
'Liar,' she cried exultantly. 'You're scared rigid someone will tell your wife. You didn't have to come to dinner, you know.'
'But I want to come to dinner —'
'Nobody forced you. Nobody pulled your toenails out.'
He insisted he was looking forward to the evening ahead and Binny said like hell he was and she didn't understand the way his mind worked; he was completely foreign to her, complaining on the one hand that until they met he had found his life dull, sordid —
'Not sordid,' he objected. 'My life has never been sordid.'
'Well, squalid, then. You were bothered about growing old.
'Whereas now,' he observed sharply, 'I doubt if I'll live that long.'
It seemed to put her in a better mood, his fear of untimely death. She laughed a lot and told him he was lovely and that if he was very good she wouldn't argue with him for a whole week.
When he put the phone down his hands were trembling.CHAPTER 2
Binny was disturbed in the middle of washing down the paintwork in the kitchen by the arrival of her friend Alma Waterhouse who had come in a taxi to borrow the hoover.
It was an awkward situation with the meter ticking over.
'It won't work,' improvised Binny. 'Someone's taken the plug off the end.'
Alma went into the street to send the taxi man away. Binny dragged the hoover from under the stairs and threw it down the back steps into the yard. It wouldn't do to let Alma know that she herself wanted to use the machine. It would arouse suspicion. Binny rarely hoovered. If she admitted that guests were coming for the evening, Alma would expect to be invited. She was having husband trouble and needed taking out of herself.
On the draining-board glittered four cooking apples, stuffed with raisins and wrapped in silver foil. Hastily bundling them into a carrier bag, Binny dropped them behind the fridge. Alma returned. She took from the pocket of her camel coat a quarter bottle of whisky and approached the cupboard where the glasses were kept.
'I can't allow it,' said Binny. Defiantly she barred the way.
'Whatever's the matter?' cried Alma, astonished at her attitude. 'We could do with a little swiggie, darling. It's awfully cold out.' Alma was a great believer in swiggies, whatever the temperature.
Excerpted from Injury Time by Beryl Bainbridge. Copyright © 1997 Beryl Bainbridge. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.