Literature │Neighbours from Hell
The Wonderful Demise of Benjamin Arnold Guppy by Gina Collia-Suzuki
(Published in “Avrupa” newpaper)
Gina Collia-Suzuki, a British writer, artist and art historian, published The Wonderful Demise of Benjamin Arnold Guppy in 2008 with Nezu Press. Her novel depicts the desperation and anguish of having to live alongside the elderly Guppy’s who go out of their way to make life as hellish as possible for the newly moved in couple, the Leah’s.
Benjamin Guppy and his wife, Pat, inflict unimaginable abuses upon the couple, from threatening letters insisting on money being paid to them, coercion by big men, vegetables thrown into their drives, and the close death of Mrs Leah when Mr Guppy decides to scare her a bit by nearly running her over. These incidents are unfortunately akin to the real life trauma that Gina and her husband had to face when they moved away from the city.
TWDBG can be comical; however, it does not take long for one to become somewhat disorientated, and sickened by the events that take place in this very dark tale as it unravels. The anguish can be excruciatingly intolerable; one can only look onwards in pain. On one hand, we feel desperation as we try to tear our eyes away from the raw madness of the ensuing events, yet completely transfixed, all at once!
The Guppy’s chip away, inch by inch at the Leah’s sanity, forcing them to swallow down antidepressants while they look on in a whirlpool of helplessness. The police refuse to take them seriously; after all, they’re only a fragile old couple, and what harm can they really do? Suzuki conveys a law system which is designed to protect its citizens, as utterly inept, what it boils down to with authority is the question of what an offence is and what constitutes as merely strange. A great example of this thin line is on page 83-4, “A man wielding a knife as he threatens you is very frightening, but one wielding a honeydew melon is just slightly ridiculous and in danger of ruining a perfectly good fruit.” One may be obviously life threatening (the knife) but the persistence and progressively abusive behaviour exhibited by the Guppy’s is perfectly capable of sending one to a hospital, whether it is for blood pressure or depression.
As the situation escalates over the next three years, it becomes clear to Mrs Leah, that Mr Benjamin Guppy must be killed. Collier is able to act out a fantastical solution for a true life trauma. By annihilating the fictional Mr Guppy, she is able to exorcise a demon which had been cast into her life without any provocation.
Suzuki’s writing is not riddled with messy emotions; it is in fact, refreshingly written with a strong sense of composure. The subject is hellish to say the least, but her writing is smooth yet matter-of-fact, comical yet dark, and sincere. It is through her ability to stay somewhat calm which drives the reader’s nerves perversely off the edge. The Wonderful Demise of Benjamin Arnold Guppy is a read, well worth diving in to, and if it does indeed mirror your own circumstance, it is important to remember that our dear Suzuki, did not in fact resort to murder, she cunningly executed a symbolic one.
The Wonderful Demise of Benjamin Arnold Guppy can be bought from amazon.co.uk for £7.27 and keep your eye out for the sequel The Delightful Undoing of Patricia Enid Guppy due to be released in June 2010.