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Out of the ordinaryAppleby HouseSylvia SmithPicador 999 pp160Sylvia Smiths first book Misadventures was the non-event that became an event the autobiography of a secretary from the East End to whom nothing much happened until she decided to publish her life story in hilariously puny slices There was surprise at what Smith chose to record nothing too little to include and amusement at her tone a flatness that she presumably intended - although even this was tantalisingly in doubt - to be comic And there was above all a sense of delighted incredulity that Misadventures - a one-off surely - existed at allNow the East End minimalist is back with Appleby House and again against all probability she draws us in as if her book were a high suspense drama Appleby House unlike its predecessor has a neat given structure It is about the year Smith spent as a tenant in an ordinary house in the East End occupied by single women The landlords for whom Sylvia has nothing but praise are Mr and Mrs Appleby The tenants for reasons that become clear are introduced under pseudonymsSmiths tone is unmistakable deflationary subtly prudish always noticing the little flaw If her style were to be translated into an object it would be an antimacassar or a crocheted white lace doily A recent black and white photograph of Appleby house is reproduced for our benefit Sylvia finishes her caption with the observation There is still no gateThere are defects in the house too we get to know all about the difficulties with the toilet When you pull the chain jump back quick otherwise youre going to get wet and the injustices of having the hot water you have paid for 50p for two baths worth stolen by other tenants The tenants include a young art student Sharon who without the Applebys permission keeps Peter her biker boyfriend in her bedroom Of Peter Smith volunteers this character sketch I
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