by Charlotte Roche
I heard an awful lot about this book. Which strikes me instantly as unusual. Normally, hearing people talking about a book would just pass me by, the mere mention of a book is usually enough to turn my mind to something else in an instant. Not because I don't read, in fact quite the opposite, but because I tend to make up my own mind which books I read, and who they are written by. I don't usually get involved in influence from other sources to determine my next purchase. This was different however. What I was hearing was shocking me, turning me on even. From what I had heard, there was a difference of opinion on whether people liked this book or not, but the important thing I garnered from my overheard conversations was that this was a book about the female body... in all its glory... I was intrigued and needed to know more.
Without further ado I hopped off down to Waterstones to buy it. Luckily I fell ill with a cold the following day, so I had a whole day in bed to read it. And read it I did.
About the Author
When I bought this book, I had never heard of the author. Hardly surprising really. Considering Wetlands is her first book. Charlotte Roche was born in 1978 and was born in High Wycombe, UK, but moved to Germany when she was one year old as her Father was sent out there to work. She remained in Germany, where she lives with her husband and daughter, although all her family live in England. She will be more well known in Germany than she is here in the UK as she is a long running presenter on Viva, the German equivalent of MTV. Who knows, hopefully Wetlands will be the start of a fascinating writing career for her.
Don't worry, I shan't give too much away... I will leave it up to you whether or not you want to read the book depending on what you think of the albeit short synopsis I will give you. The book focuses around a single main character, Helen Memel. Helen is eighteen years old and is in a hospital having an operation on an anal lesion caused by her method of shaving her intimate areas. Whilst in the hospital, she spends hours trying to come up with a plan that might see her long-divorced parents get back together, she knows the chances are pretty slim, but she would like to see it happen. Also whilst she is in hospital she has plenty of time on her own, giving her the peace and quiet to contemplate and discuss with the reader her sexual exploits, ranging from the completely normal, to the "I'm about to be sick" shocking.
The story is written in a strange way in that it is about Helen Memel, but is written as though there is a narrator telling you about their sexual exploits. The narrator, of course, is Helen. One thing I will say from the start is that if you are easily offended, puke at the mere mention of an anus or just generally have a weak stomach then this is most definately not the book for you. For me, I guess what made me read it was my curiosity to find out more about the inner workings of the female body, straight from a female.The book, in essence, is basically a form of pornography. At times I did find it turned me on (my partner also said the same happened to her at points), and at other points it can be quite revolting, although I am not easily offended at all so none of the contents were particularly shocking for me.
The obscenity in this book is not to be taken lightly. The story begins in a hospital room after Helen has had an intimate shaving accident, the narrator then continues to give a detailed and graphic account of her haemorrhoid's. Later in the book the subject of anal intercourse is discussed in some detail and the vulgarness and graphical explanations only continue to get worse throughout the book.
To me, the book was an important one. I believe Charlotte Roche has discussed some pretty taboo issues and brought female issues to the forefront. I believe that issues of male sexuality and their bodies are quite common place and discussed quite often. Seldom do women get the chance (or maybe they are too shy) to discuss their own bodies, and Roche I believe does this very well. She talks openly about masterbating, perhaps in a way to get women to be more open about such issues, of course there is still much debate that masterbation is very much a male dominated "sport", but this doesn't have to be the case as Roche proves.
I like the way Helen Memel uses different terminology for her body parts. Instead of referring to her piles as haemorrhoids, she refers to them as "the cauliflower". She calls her clitoris her "snail tail", this kind of detracts slightly from the seriousness of the issues she raises and on occasions raises a smile.
Helen Memel goes into great depth about hygiene, how she was always brought up to be hygienic, to wash her genitals thoroughly, wear clean knickers, wipe after going to the toilet. Then proceeds to explain how she rebels against that and prefers to go unwashed in her undercarriage department as she feels it attracts more men. She goes into graphic detail as to how she uses her vaginal secretions as a perfume behind her ears. Some of this, I must admit, I did find quite revolting. If my girlfriend started doing any of this I would be quite appauled. Thats why I was hesitant to lend her the book in case she got any funny ideas!
I totally enjoyed this book, from start to finish. it definately won't be everybodies cup of tea, but for those of you who fancy something quite quite different, then I highly recommend it.
My boyfriend gave me this book for valentines day last year . I'd asked for it after reading an article in the paper that described it as being so graphically erotic that readers had actually fainted ! Faint inducing erotica - well, count me in !
It tells the story of 18 year old Helen , who begins the book in hospital awaiting treatment for an infected abcess on her bum . I say it tells her story, but really I found this novel to be nothing more than a description of all Helens sexual encounters, with very little actual plot or storyline involved.
This would normally be fine with me - many erotic novels lack plot, instead focusing on heavily romanticised scenes of love-making, designed to make women light headed and perhaps a little aroused from the reading.
Arousal was a sensation I did not experience with this book - disgust and shock were the order of the day, with Helen detailing amongst other things her haemhorroids and how she loves to have men lick them . I'm sorry, but I fail to find that arousing, and the book only gets worse from there. The book seems very much focused on Helens bum and the things she likes to do with it, put up it, or grind it up against. This book was awful , and I found myself feeling sickened even more with each chapter.
I did persevere and read the whole thing - it would have been rude not to with it being a gift I had specifically asked for . I'm sure others might be able to read this and apply some reason for Helens behaviour,but for me the 'my parents are divorced and therefore I must violate my every orifice' line just isn't believable .
I can't recommend this book - it simply has no redeeming features . There is no real plot, and the book just moves from one disgusting scene to another . There is only so much I can read about someones obsession with their own bodily secretions and anal obsession, and reading this book was a real test of my gag reflex. 1 star .
'Wetlands', by German presenter Charlotte Roche, is a courageous and heavily speckled with humour delve into the extremes of the human body and sexuality. Often described as a novel that centres on the taboo, hardly any subject is censored as we follow the story of 18 year old Helen Memel as she recovers from a surprisingly disastrous shaving accident. While it is true that many critics slate 'Wetlands' for what they see as an immature exploration of the less glossy aspects of the human body, and shallow use of crudity, I feel there is a deeper message than pure shock value.
The narrator of the story is Helen, who at a young age is afflicted with a serious case of haemorrhoids; it seems significant as an affliction normally found in older men. In this Roche has pushed the character into an uncontrollable situation outside of the norm, already in a position that many would balk at, or would discuss with only prudish embarrassment. Young women aren't meant to get haemorrhoids. In the same way, Helen engages in many activities that 'respectable young women' aren't meant to engage in. These include anal sex, masturbation whilst having an enema and the consumption of another's vomit, to name a few. While some may find the narrations at times testing, it is really only down to the fact that as a society we are not used to reading these things. And this is what Roche is trying to illuminate: the secrets that many women hold over their own bodies (and lives), of which many other women will share. Terms such as 'arse piss' are there for starkness, and although may make some readers twitter in their vulgarity, this is precisely the point: they need to be direct as the issue of the body and cleanliness is so over-euphemised. Any other terminology would seem to be an acquiescence to this ideology of hyper-hygiene. As a reader I saw it as a discussion between myself and the author, in a way which said ' if you show me yours, I'll show you mine'. Perhaps this could be accused of being like playground banter, but in a world where women are so restricted by beauty norms, it reflects the childish nature of women's ignorance, and frankly disgust, of their own bodies.
Having said all that, this novel is not without fault. It is true that the plot itself is somewhat weak, and although the excursions into the past provide much of the substance, the present, based in the hospital, is inconsistent and lacks either plausibility or explanation. Her desire to see her parents reunited is not sufficiently clarified, and seems to be based on a frail assumption that 'all children want to see their parents together'. Added to this, her difficult relationship with both her mother and father makes her desperate efforts to bring them together even more perplexing. Another example is her relationship with the male nurse Robin; it's an ending that doesn't offer much of an explanation, and seems ill thought-out at best, and forced at worst.
While 'Wetlands' will never become a literary classic due to its overly simplistic nature, it still holds many lessons for the modern world. At its heart, it is asking for adults to open up, and become more realistic and less judgemental about the world. For that, we have to thank Charlotte Roche for being brave enough to be the first to open up this topic for debate.
Eighteen year old Helen Memel ends up in hospital after her attempt to shave between the cheeks of her buttocks goes wrong and she ends up in the proctology unit having her infected anus operated on. During the course of her hospitalisation Helen has time to reflect on her life, her family and more especially her body. She dreams that her hospitalisation will bring her divorced parents back together again and contrives to bring them face to face over her sick bed. Will Helen's plans work or will she go back to the same old life afterwards?
"Wetlands" is written by German TV presenter Charlotte Roche and the book is an Amazon worldwide bestseller and has created a lot of controversy. Roche claims she wrote the book in order to empower women to rebel against Americanised ideals of beauty and to talk about the female body and sexuality in a frank and open way which women will relate to. It's true that the frankness of the writing covers every part of the body with Helen descriptions of haemorrhoids, masturbation, anal sex, vaginal secretions, female ejaculation and "ass piss" which is the substance Helen's anus produces after her operation however these appear to have been thrown in for shock value a lot of the time and certainly would not help any woman I know want to embrace her body.
There's a difference between rejecting Americanised beauty ideals and the Barbie doll look and celebrating your bodies natural form and Roche fails miserably here. Helens body, like all female bodies, has it's gross bits but Helen celebrates this grossness in a way I hope no other woman does. She does not bother with simple hygiene instead dabs her own vaginal secretions behind her ears as a perfume to try and attract men and allows her own natural odours to build up. She also has the nasty habit of ingesting her own secretions, ok a teenager exploring their body is normal but this goes beyond normality to disgusting.
The book has virtually no plot. Helens hospitalisation is the only event which happens within the book with her mind wandering back to events in her life. Being in hospital is boring and lonely so Helen fills her time with furious masturbation, not caring who catches her and fantasises about having sex with the nurses and even her own father.
The poor plotline is unfortunately not helped by the lack of characters in the book. Helen is the focus of 99% of the novel and unfortunately she comes across as a shallow, self obsessed little girl. The fact that she is a child of divorced parents or lived through a trauma at the hands of her mentally unstable mother are used as a way to give her a little bit of depth but I felt no sympathy for her. She may use her rampant promiscuity, including visits to female prostitutes, as a way to fill the loneliness she feels inside but I did not warm to her in any way and did not care about what happened to her. I didn't feel that she was believable, on the one hand she acts like a small kid trying to get her parents back together while her sexual antics go beyond the type of experiences that a typical woman twice her age have experienced.
"Wetlands" is a very strange book, it's like Roche has tried too hard to be dangerous and edgy in her writing and instead comes across like she has just thrown as many taboo subjects into her book as she can to create shock value. I don't really see what all the fuss is about this book, I suppose once it created a ripple with a couple of people talking about it then everyone wanted to read it for themselves. If you are beyond the stage of giggling at rude words and don't want to be grossed out then give this book a miss.
Wetlands is the funniest book I've read for a long time. Don't read it if you're the tiniest bit shockable but if you want to be shaken out of this sanitised, cushion plumping world you'll love it. This book has been doing the rounds with my girlfriends (one even read Wetlands whilst taking her students on a trip to an art gallery but felt inclined to put a fake dust jacket on it) and we all found it totally hilariously revolting. Every time you think Charlotte has peeked in terms of stomach turning gore she succeeds in giving more.
Personally I couldn't put this book down and I felt strangely attached to the young proganist and hygiene anarchist, Helen. Sharing the book with friends is a delicious, naughty secret that I relish. Not sure how reliable the medical information in this book is. Probably best to keep some alcohol hand cleanser at the ready.
I chose this book as someone with an interest in erotic fiction and a healthy imagination. Various reviews I had read in respectable publications had me thinking this would be really worthwhile and a big deal. I guess that any publicity is good publicity, as reading through my fellow reviewers' opinions on this page shows my opinion is one shared with many other disappointed and disgusted readers.
The book is childish, reminding me of when we'd gather in the corners of the playground and try to shock eachother in fits of giggles over "naughty words" and "rude things." Its sole purpose is to shock, with incredibly graphic descriptions of things most sane people don't want to hear about; I mean fetishes involving bodily waste.
I can see why it is such a controversial book; the last time I can think of a book causing such a stir was Lady Chatterley's Lover but at least that had a storyline and its own merit; this is just a cacophony of vulgarity and I found myself feeling physically sick at times reading it.
I would say avoid this book unless you need or would like to need psychiatric help. For a far better mildly erotic novel, I'd recommend Everything You Ever Wanted by Rosalind Wyllie or the Diary Of A Callgirl books by Tracey Quan.