WETLANDS by Charlotte Roche


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English translation of a German TV personality’s sexually graphic first novel.

“As far back as I can remember, I’ve had hemorrhoids.” With this opening line, Roche declares her intention to omit no physiological detail. Readers may take it as a frank come-on or a kindhearted warning, depending on their interest in exploring aspects of the female nether regions that are seldom described outside of hardcore pornography or the gynecologist’s office. Eighteen-year-old protagonist Helen Memel narrates the entire novel from a hospital bed, where she is confined after the aforementioned rectal unpleasantness contributes to a terrible shaving mishap. While convalescing after emergency surgery, Helen entertains herself by reflecting on her unhappy family, reminiscing about her sexual adventures and tenderly examining all—all—of her body’s excrescences. Indeed, meditations on cervical mucus and related substances make up most of this slender novel, and this, aside from Roche’s fame (she’s a presenter on the German equivalent of MTV), is the reason why her novel has become an international cause scandale. Abroad, it has been celebrated as an empowering depiction of sexual independence, and a superficial reading would support such judgment. But Helen is hardly a feminist heroine. She is sexually precocious but emotionally stunted. She is afraid to be alone, and, while she may revel in her various secretions, she is ultimately no more respectful of her body than the women who groom themselves into a state of profound unnaturalness. Indeed, Helen’s claims that her own filthiness is a political act seem more bratty than noble. When she spits in a glass of mineral water and offers it to a candy striper, it is not the act of a revolutionary; it is the act of a petulant teen.

Provocatively nasty but intellectually empty.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8021-1892-9
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2009


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