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Wetlands (2008)

by Charlotte Roche

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9774515,736 (2.76)35
With her jaunty dissection of the sex life and the private grooming habits of the novel's 18-year-old narrator, Helen Memel, Charlotte Roche has turned the previously unspeakable into the national conversation in Germany. Since its debut in February, the novel ('Feuchtgebiete', in German) has sold more than 680,000 copies, and is the biggest selling book on Amazon anywhere in the world. The book is a headlong dash through every crevice and byproduct, physical and psychological, of its narrator's body and mind. It is difficult to overstate the raunchiness of the novel. Wetlands opens in a hospital room after an intimate shaving accident. It gives a detailed topography of Helen's hemorrhoids, continues into the subject of anal intercourse and only gains momentum from there, eventually reaching avocado pits as objects of female sexual satisfaction and - here is where the debate kicks in - just possibly female empowerment. Clearly the novel has struck a nerve, catching a wave of popular interest in renewing the debate over women's roles and image in society.… (more)
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» See also 35 mentions

English (27)  German (13)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  Danish (1)  French (1)  All languages (45)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Bad, I could not finish. Much better perverse literature out there. This is bunk. ( )
  skroah | Dec 14, 2020 |
Well, it was what it was and she either had her hand up her cunt or up her arse just about most of the time. I honestly don't know how she managed to type. Maybe she didn't type but instead just daubed on the walls. Whatever, but there sure was a lot of that stuff, more than anywhere else I have yet to read. I can remember reading one bit and starting to see where it was going and thinking to myself, "she couldn't", then, "she wouldn't", then "of course she did".

And somewhere along the way I kinda thought that the whole point of it was "of course she did".

I found none of it shocking or disgusting, I mean, who hasn't had their fingers in the their own, or someone else's, orifices at some point or another and revelled in it? Well, I have but never enough to write a whole book about.

I did like the subtext of the parents story and was a bit sorry there wasn't more substance to it, maybe I should have said I wished the parents had been more solid and not just another smear on the wall. ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
Reading "The Wetlands" made me think of a comment I once saw posted on a slightly seedy internet comment board in which some guy bemoaned the fact that French and German porn actresses tended to bore him because they were too comfortable with sex. Watching them go at it, he said, was sort of like watching them do aerobics, albeit using some unusual equipment. It got me thinking: maybe you can be too comfortable with sex! It might be lapsed Catholic in me talking, but maybe the idea that our naughty bits are indeed naughty adds something important to our sexual experiences. "The Wetlands" seems to confirm this hypothesis. Never have I read a novel so explicit and yet so dull.

The explicit elements of this book have probably been described by other reviewers at length, so I won't go them here, save to say that Helen Memmel, our protagonist, has such a blasé attitude towards her own body that it verges on disassociation. Forget a mind-body connection: Helen describes her body as if it's a piece of furniture and hasn't yet secreted a bodily fluid she isn't perfectly at home with. Perhaps the author's trying to desacrilize the body or normalize its functions, or maybe she's trying to tweak Americans' supposedly overly puritanical conceptions of their own bodies. Either way, it makes "The Wetlands" a pretty flat and unexciting read. This is especially true since Helen herself isn't that interesting: even for a teenage protagonist, who might be forgiven for not being especially reflective, she's glib and self-centered. Heck, I'm not too sure that "shallow" isn't the correct adjective here. We watch her irritate nurses, manipulate doctors, and recount a couple of bodily fluid-intensive experiences without gaining much insight into the life that she may or may not have. Helen's a dirty, dirty girl, but not in the exciting sense that that phrase usually implies. The novel could probably have been improved by periodic visits from the grinning, broad-shouldered bald guy on the Mr. Clean bottle.

And that, I guess, is my main problem with "The Wetlands." I'm just some American with a rather tense relationship with microbes, but I imagine that you'd have to go through some pretty significant trauma to get to where Helen is in this novel. And, yes, she talks about a couple of genuinely unpleasant incidents her past in her usual afectless tone. But there's little emotional resonance here. A lot of what passes for the emotional underpinnings to Helen's character is day-dreamy, by-the-numbers teenage sentimentality and doesn't seem to explain, never mind justify, the weird, messy place that she's ended up. Frankly, this kitschy stuff's a lot less forgivable than all of Helen's talk about her secretions and orifices. There are probably places here where the author could have made a larger point about modern society's relationship with impurity and our physical selves, but Helen's not really the right vessel for that: there's little in the way of social critique here.

So that's it. "The Wetlands" is recommended to fans of outré literature who have a high tolerance for discussions of all things proctological, people interested in literary depictions of the body -- of which I admit I'm one -- absolutely shameless perverts, and nobody else. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after reading this one. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Dec 3, 2016 |
*2015 Reading Challenge* A book with bad reviews
  LaMala | Jun 7, 2015 |
A hilarious commentary to make you question how you think about your body, and it's functions. At times repetitive, and maybe a little too bizarre; Wetlands may be counterproductive for the message it wishes to portray. Eighteen year old Helen is in hospital being treated for an infected anal lesion. The promiscuous narrator is no stranger to her body, and much of the book is filled with stories of previous sexual exploits. At the core, however, is an attack against the modern waxed, douched, scented, and doused in makeup female. ( )
  ErraticLucidity | Oct 28, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (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)
 
Dabei ist es dieser aufklärerische Furor, dieser unbedingte Wahrheitstrieb, den Roche in ihren Fernsehauftritten immer schon gezeigt hat und der ihren Roman jetzt so sehr von dem unterscheidet, was an deutscher Prosa sonst in den Regalen steht, Prosa, die ja gerade mal wieder sehr gern die großen Probleme der Welt in politische Romane packt, dabei aber vielleicht die nahe liegenden Feuchtgebiete vernachlässigt.
added by ElBarto | editDIE ZEIT, Georg Diez (May 19, 2005)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charlotte Rocheprimary authorall editionscalculated
Jayne, PippaReadermain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bredenkamp, Christinesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gross, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jané-Lligé, JordiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Misset, MarcelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mohr, TimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nordang, AstridTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rautio, Jenni(KÄÄnt.)secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roscher, AinoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Servalli, E.Traduttoresecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Széherová, Katarínasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vivas, JulioDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Voor Martin
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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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With her jaunty dissection of the sex life and the private grooming habits of the novel's 18-year-old narrator, Helen Memel, Charlotte Roche has turned the previously unspeakable into the national conversation in Germany. Since its debut in February, the novel ('Feuchtgebiete', in German) has sold more than 680,000 copies, and is the biggest selling book on Amazon anywhere in the world. The book is a headlong dash through every crevice and byproduct, physical and psychological, of its narrator's body and mind. It is difficult to overstate the raunchiness of the novel. Wetlands opens in a hospital room after an intimate shaving accident. It gives a detailed topography of Helen's hemorrhoids, continues into the subject of anal intercourse and only gains momentum from there, eventually reaching avocado pits as objects of female sexual satisfaction and - here is where the debate kicks in - just possibly female empowerment. Clearly the novel has struck a nerve, catching a wave of popular interest in renewing the debate over women's roles and image in society.

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