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Wetlands by Charlotte Roche
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Wetlands (original 2008; edition 2009)

by Charlotte Roche, Tim Mohr (Translator)

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8003911,442 (2.71)34
Member:Counterfeit
Title:Wetlands
Authors:Charlotte Roche
Other authors:Tim Mohr (Translator)
Info:Grove Press (2009), Edition: Tra, Kindle Edition, 208 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:read in 2009

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Wetlands by Charlotte Roche (2008)

Recently added byVada1307, panurg, private library, aquileyo, danierenae, sternly, Lalena, Urban_Forsum, Locke, dysterkvist
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English (23)  German (12)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (39)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Pretentious gimmick. ( )
  Steelwhisper | Mar 31, 2013 |
This truly is the most disgusting book I've ever read. Without a doubt.

I WILL be giving spoilers in this review, hopefully to spare you from having to gag your way through the book itself. DON'T READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU PLAN TO READ THE BOOK!! This is for those who couldn't finish it but who are curious about how it ended.

This was torturous to read (gross, stomach-turning and yet monotonous) but it bugs me not to finish a book once I've started it, just in case a seemingly bad or slow-starting book turns out to be great. FYI, this one did not magically change for the better.

This book takes place entirely in the hospital where 18-year-old Helen is recovering from surgery for an anal lesion. Which she goes into great detail about: how she got it, what it looks like, what it feels like, what it smells like, what it tastes like (shudder), ad infinitum. She goes into great detail about her hemorrhoids: how she got them, what they look like, what they feel like, what they...etc. etc. We also hear her reminisce about her varied, risky and hedonistic sex life (including anal, oral, receiving oral while menstruating, visiting brothels): how she gets into it, who goes where, what goes where, what it all looks like, what it all feels like, what it all smells like, what it all tastes like, etc., etc.

This may make it sound like the descriptions are erotic. Trust me. They are not. They are told in a blunt, bold, crass manner by an unlikable character with a nose-thumbing attitude that is obviously intended to shock those around her. Not to speak for everybody, but my guess is unless you have a fetish for the hard-core things Helen digs and never shuts up about, you WILL be disgusted.

She expounds on her drug use and how it has caused a loss of brain cells, which she finds humorous. She remembers a time when she and her friend got into a boyfriend's stash and ingested different drugs in copious amounts in one sitting while drinking red wine. Then they both got sick and vomited everything up into the same bucket. Of course, she had to describe in detail what that looked like, smelled like, oh, yes, and even tasted like. They saw some pills floating in that muck and thought it was a waste, so they both drank the bucket of mutual vomit until it was empty. Yes, I know. Do you understand why I felt nauseous at times reading this book?

Helen had exceptionally poor hygiene habits. Understatement. HUGE understatement. She hadn't washed her face in years. In fact she went to great pains to make sure her face never got wet. It wasn't a fear of water. She just didn't think it was necessary (probably a rebellion against her mother's aversion to germs). She described secretions that would accumulate on her body after not bathing certain areas for a period of time. She described how she and a friend would swap used tampons under the bathroom stall doors and re-insert them--that way they could be "blood" sisters. She would deliberately smear blood on handrails, on money, on elevator buttons. Of course she never washed her hands, are you kidding me? It didn't matter what she touched. She liked being dirty. The grosser the better. At one point she was looking at and touching the infected tissue (now medical waste) that she had requested to see after her surgical procedure. That's okay to be curious about those things. HOWEVER; she had just gotten done describing every detail of it (blood, pus, red/yellow tissue, etc.), then realized her hands were dirty/bloody. Oh, well. She can just lick it off. Oh, and then finish her pizza.

This whole book is relentless in its capacity for crudeness. Constant descriptions of blood, excrement, pus, scabs, mucous, you name it. And she loves eating it all, describing the most vile things as "delicacies".

After trying to come up with ways to stay in the hospital, hoping it will force her parents to visit at the same time and realize they want to get back together, Helen ends up opening up her surgical wound by inserting part of the brake on her bed into the wound, causing her to nearly bleed to death and need a second emergency surgery. This girl is cooked.

I had a glimmer of hope that there would be some redemption for Helen and for the book itself when she revealed flashback memories of the dysfunction of her childhood. It seems her mother's warped sense of, well, everything most likely caused the current repulsive behavior that Helen so childishly displays on a constant and unrelenting basis. Helen is obviously hurt and angry. Yes, I feel bad that her mother attempted suicide when she was younger and tried to take her little brother with her (leaving Helen to wonder why her mom didn't want to take her too). Yes, I feel bad she is still hurting about her parents' divorce and really wants them to get back together. I presume these understandable hurts transferred over to the obvious anger and disdain toward everyone else, to the degree that she blatantly tries to shock everyone around her, has no regard for others, and is basically, just...nasty. In every way.

In the end, she talks Robin, a male nurse who befriends her, into letting her live with him so she won't have to go back home to her mother. He agrees and is actually pretty kind to her. Seems like a good guy. But can Helen walk away with us thinking she might be growing up and possibly have a chance with this nice nurse guy? That maybe he'll be able to teach her some good hygiene? Well, maybe, but first she has to rip up her hospital room in order to leave a "goodbye message", an elaborate visual depicting her mother's suicide attempt years earlier. Drawing an oven on the wall, ripping the wallpaper down to look like the oven door, laying her mom's clothes out on the floor to make it look like how she found her unconscious mom and little brother. Just letting dear old mom know that she remembers. A last F.U. to her family. Gee, how unlike Helen's usual behavior.

P.S. One crazy thing is the author's photo is such a complete contrast to the story itself. She looks all coy and shy, kind of pixie-like. Shoot, she even has little daisies on her blouse. It's so weird that this type of work could come from the mind of someone who looks like her! ( )
1 vote AddictedToMorphemes | Jan 9, 2013 |
This is a slim novel about a young woman’s happy obsession with her own body and it’s functions and excretions, especially her genitals and her anus. It takes this theme pretty far indeed.

I guess you already have a strong hunch if this is for you or not. If you don’t think it is, it isn’t. Trust me.

Eighteen year old Helen is in hospital to have very painful surgery performed on her sphincter. She decides to use this condition to try and get her parents back together. Which means she can’t allow herself to be sent home too soon. In the meantime she hits it off with Robin, a young male nurse, and tells him about her lovelife and other secrets. All of it dosed in hefty doses of mucus, menstrual blood, hair, blackheads, urine and smegma.

German writers do this kind of happy provocation better than anyone. What could have been purely about shock value and grossing the reader out, instead, through Helen’s attitude and matter-of-factness becomes a rather liberating read. You’d kind of want every teenage girl with deep fears of a hair in the wrong place, or even the faintest whiff of sweat, to take a test-dive into this cesspool and come up a freer person.

Holding the novel together is a small streak of sorrow. Roche plays Helen’s sadness about her family extremely low – subtleness in a pretty darn un-subtle book, and it’s effective. I wish there had been a little bit more of that though, instead of peppering the pages with new musky smells until the very last page. ( )
  GingerbreadMan | Jan 8, 2013 |
It’s a book with a buzz. It’s the first German book to top the lists of Amazon bestsellers, and the one to which reviews referred to as a ‘feminist manifesto bordering pornography’. In truth, this book is both a tale of a troubled teenager, and a reaction to the artificial and sanitized model of femininity of the cosmetic ads and glossy magazines covers.
Helen, an 18-year-old heroin, desperately needs warmth and attention, but nobody really cares about her. She wants love; she wants her parents together. She does outrageous things to get a stir from them, but to no avail. She is shameless, provocative and promiscuous, she experiments with drugs; all of that it seems to come to terms with her mother’s failed murder suicide and her parents’ divorce. Just like Helen, the book is outrageous, irreverent, attention seeking, but it’s also funny and very bold. Somewhat scatological as well. ( )
  Niecierpek | Feb 7, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Roche has called her Helen a “free spirit,” but there’s an unmeditated falseness to this damaged Ophelia’s cockiness, more traumatized runaway in denial than gleeful debauchee... Wetlands has the makings of a complex psychological portrait of the “dark continent” of female sexuality that Freud feared to tread, a case study of Dora from her own perspective, but this potential is never fully realized.
added by Shortride | editBookforum, Kate Zambreno (May 24, 2009)
 

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charlotte Rocheprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Misset, MarcelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nordang, AstridTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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As far back as I can remember, I've had hemorrhoids.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Helen Memel, an outspoken eighteen-year-old with a childlike stubbornness and a precocious sexual confidence, starts scheming on reuniting her divorced parents.

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