12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2011
The book cover itself says its a marmite book you either love it or hate it. Most of the reviews that are one star reviews say it is shocking for the sake of being shocking and other cliches sorry but I did not find it shocking but funny and humane a reclaiming of our bodies and the reality of them from the media's idea of what is right and proper. So I would say give it a go and if you don't like it fair enough but don't be put off by the endless cliches of the other reviewers.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 7 April 2009
First thing to say about this book is that it is truly disgusting, and every body fluid imaginable is discussed in detail, usually ending up in it being eaten and ingested back into the body in some way.
The graphic `sex' side of it didn't really bother me, and is nowhere near as shocking as I was expecting from the hype this book has received. As another reviewer has pointed out this sort of thing may be mo shocking in Germany, but a load of sexual exhibitionists isn't really new news here.
Unlike other reviewers however I did quite like the character of Helen and I found the motivations of her behaviour (i.e. her parents' divorce) to be believable, and quite sad. The bit regarding her mother and brother (don't want to give spoilers away) was really sad and seems to have been a bit overlooked by reviewers as motivation for her somewhat strange behaviour. Although before you read it is important to remember that the whole point of this novel is to shock, rather than sustain a steady plot and believable characters, so if you are looking for a good `story' as such, stay well clear!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 9 June 2009
Other reviewers have complained that this book is just a kind of pornographic attempt to shock, but I think that is missing the point. Sure, the writer appears to be obsessed with the most basic animal functions of our bodies, but there's more to this than pornography, which is rarely readable or intentionally amusing (or so I'm told!). The reason the book has sold so well is surely because it is, in parts, very funny, and although there are lots of dirty words it is at least quite well-written, though Ms Roche does have a problem knowing when to use commas instead of full-stops (eg: 'They thought I didn't notice. But I did. And how.') And this: 'I swear I will. Helen. Very impressive'. Note that one-word sentence: 'Helen', which is the narrator referring to herself, something she does about a thousand times throughout this relatively short book, rather irritatingly.
The author is English but brought up in Germany and it is surely the combination of English lavatory humor and German openness concerning the body that is responsible for producing such an unlikely best-seller. So is it worth reading? Only if you've got nothing better to do and want to know what all the fuss is about. (Yes, there's been a lot of fuss over this book, which has been taken far too seriously for a novel that was obviously intended as a joke.)
The blurb on the back cover, a Granta quote claiming the book evokes 'The Catcher in the Rye', is nonsense, and anyone expecting such quality will be sadly disappointed, as is usually the case with back-cover blurbs. The best that can be said about this book is that, considering the limitations of the subject matter and the location (we never leave the hospital), and the fact that there is no plot whatsoever, it is quite entertaining and easy to read, assuming you aren't too squeamish.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2009
Wetlands is told through the eyes of 18 year old Helen Memel from her hospital bed after an accident during a rather intimate shaving incident. Starting as she means to go on she tells us not only of just how she got into this situation but also of the last time she came into hospital to be sterilized as soon as she became of age. From then on there is a fascination with the wound itself which takes us into a graphic and incredibly explicit account of her sex life (seriously everything is discussed, I wont say too much in case I get banned on this site) and her own personal hygiene regime.
At first I will admit I was titillated and then I embraced how Charlotte Roche writes so bluntly about all things concerning women and sex. Then I started to become grossed out by it all. I didn't need to know about the narrator's secretions in such detail again and again, to give you an example I will use the word `slime' as it is used a lot in this context. I also didn't need to know what she thought about her Dad's anatomy or the fact she likes to eat other people's spots. That's all the gory details I shall go into for fear of offending anyone who has read this far further.
As Helen discusses all these things in minute detail her character and back story briefly glimpse through and actually we have a very, very interesting narrator. Helen is clearly torn up after her parent's separation and her mothers attempted suicide and murder of her brother and how she uses her sexuality to deal with all of these conflicting emotions in her head. It was in fact those glimpses that made me read on. It's a book I can't say I disliked, though I didn't love it. It is a book that made me think about what constitutes a graphic and open feminist coming or age story (though if this is what girls are going through around the world heaven help us) or a book designed to sell on how shocking and explicit it is. For me the jury is still open, I would suggest other people give it a read to decide, should they have the guts for it
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 October 2009
I bought this book after a conversation with a friend. I suggested an old favourite of mine for her 'Catcher In The Rye', she suggested 'Wetlands' and hyped it up quite a bit so I was really excited when I began reading. The first few chapters kept me interested enough to carry on, I liked Helen Memel's fascination with her body, she seemed so naive and young wrapping herself up in this strange little world, and yes some of the descriptions were quite shocking and brutally honest. However, my fascination in this character soon faded. Repetitive and dull, I started to lose my patience with this girl so eager for attention. Her relationship with her body just sank into the norm of the story and what surfaced after this was not enough. About a third of the way through all I could think was I wish I was the one reading the book I suggested. I wanted it to end, and it did eventually..with a rather silly ending which just made me even more mad at Charlotte Roche for writing this tedious piece of rubbish. Like others have said, this book would have been much better as a very short story. Well done to Roche for causing so much hype though, you've got to applaud her for writing a book that would attract such a staggering amount of people in the first place. I suggest reading this book just to see for yourself, make up your own mind, just don't spend money on it!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 October 2011
This book was certainly 'different'. It was absolutely disgusting and made me cringe at most points and laugh at a few, but I was still strangely intrigued by this book. I think the reason why I most enjoyed this book was seeing courage that Roche had to approach the very 'taboo' subjects that it deals with. I've never read anything like this and I wouldn't like to read more, I think I only found this interesting because it's the first of its type that I've read. I can completely understand that this is a book that you would either love or hate and to most peoples tastes, it would most probably be too unsettling to read and I admit that it was very repulsive. Yes, there could have been better ways to break through the barriers of these taboo subjects, but I think Roche is successful in treating these subjects as everyday occurances - though perhaps in a rather exagerrated fashion.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
I read this because I wanted to make up my own mind about the controversy it has generated, but the book is actually very different from what I had expected from all the reviews. Yes, it is gross and completely disgusting in lots of places, to the point where there were pages I had to skim through since they were so stomach-churning.
But at heart this is a story of Helen, an emotionally-damaged eighteen-year old, scarred by her family, sexually-promiscuous but lonely, and screaming her pain through her defiant and rebellious relationship to her own body. Like a seven-year old, she thinks she's being clever and shocking, but what gradually builds up in this short book is not a sense of empathy but of pity.
Charlotte Roche isn't Helen, but she has created a monstrously vivid anti-heroine. I can completely understand the people who have slated this book for its repellent and sometimes nauseating episodes, but I can also understand their necessity in defining who and what Helen is. So not a pleasant book to read, but ultimately a brave and interesting one.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2009
Have you heard of an art house film director called Peter Greenaway? His two most famous movies were "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover" and "The Draughtsman's Contract". He made difficult to watch films out of subject matter that was unsuitable for filming. Essentially he turned lists into films. This book is basically a Greenaway film in book form. Which means it's an avant-garde book about a list of unhygienic things that has been fleshed out to resemble a novel.
It started life as a pamphlet about the (excessive?) lengths women go to in order to stay fresh and clean. And the book is short at only a little over 200 pages. It took me four and a half hours to read, and I'm not a fast reader. It reminded me of a Julian Barnes book I never finished reading called "Flaubert's Parrot", which was also an extended list in the form of a novel (in its case it was about the memories of an old man).
Do not expect detailed life like characters or a complex story with intricate sub-plots and a clever twist. The book is almost humourless in its strict adherence to compiling its list of disgust. I thought the book had a lot of humour in it but I don't expect anyone else to agree with me on that.
The book does not seem to have been plotted out in advance beyond the sketchiest overall structure (ie. has anal injury, has operation, tries to get her parents back together, reminisces about her history of hygiene, leaves hospital). Which sometimes trips the author up as she piles new hygiene horror story on top of previous stories. At one point Helen, the lead character, says that she made a decision to only frequent black prostitutes. Ten or so pages before she was first telling us about visiting brothels and she hadn't mentioned this, which made it clear that the writer was making it up as she went along. It's not a problem as such, but personally I'm getting a bit annoyed with books that aren't plotted out clearly in advance.
Sometimes the book goes too far and just sounds like nonsense. The idea that she has a friend who would happily swap used tampons with her sounds ludicrous to me. Or that she had a friend who would eat her vomit? When it's her doing the nasty I can believe it, but the idea that she knows others that will do these sort of things stretches things a bit too far.
It's one of those books that has characters saying stilted unrealistic things, or act in unconvincing ways, but it's not really relevant to what the author is trying to do. So to complain about it seems a bit pointless. How she ends up being shaved by a man she meets at the market where she works is pure literary conceit, and utterly unrealistic. Only in a pretentious novel can a man simply ask a stranger if he can shave her body hair, and get a positive reply.
The second operation makes for a great ending, but unfortunately it's marred by having another fifteen or so pages of aimless reminiscing, followed by twee behaviour by the lead character and her male nurse. I got the sense that the ideas had stopped coming to the author so she just wanted to wrap everything up as quickly as possible.
All the reviews I've read by the professionals have been very negative. They spend 75% of the review going on about the hype etc, then spend only a few paragraphs actually reviewing the book itself. I don't think they're seeing the trees for all the wood. Forget the hype and accept that it's an intriguing thought provoking non-mainstream book of unconventional fiction. There are no good guys, bad guys, threats to life, action, adventure etc. It's just a list of unhygienic things a woman can get up to.
It's well written in an anonymous nuts and bolts style which suits the subject matter well. Fancy poetic ways of describing body functions are not really needed. If anything, it would take away some of the shock if it's cushioned with prettification (in the same way a glossy horror movie is never as scary as something that looks like it was filmed on toilet paper). It's been translated from German, but the author is English and can speak English (although she didn't translate it herself) so the translation is not too stiff. And as I just said, the nuts and bolts stiffness of the language feels appropriate.
Is it a feminist tract? I don't think so. The author doesn't seem to be trying to say anything much beyond that women could maybe not be so preoccupied with impeccable grooming. Hardly a call to insurrection, or for drastic changes in peoples lives. The unpleasantness in the book is clearly ramped up to an exaggerated degree in order to be entertaining and disgusting. Helen is not meant to represent anything that other women should aspire to be like.
I refuse to read books I don't like so I would have bailed on this "novel" within five pages if I didn't like it. I was wary of ordering it as I could easily see it being unreadable, so I had a flick through it in a bookshop (using the page 69 rule). I liked what I briefly read so I took a chance on it. I liked it, enjoyed it and I would recommend it.
on 24 January 2015
Please don't read this if you have a weak stomach !
It's very very detailed and very imaginative but not for everyone.
Ok now you've been warned by me and everyone else here it seems, the choice is yours haha.
Yeah i mean it is pretty gross, but there's kind of more to it than that....well i would like to think there is , some parts make you want to just put it down and stop reading because you're thinking 'what's the point , she's just trying to gross us out as much as she can' but it's actually a good book , and it's weird to say that given the topics and the content but there is some heart in there somewhere. You just have to have a good hard look.
If you look past the varied and very strong nature of the main characters knack for describing every inch of her & what she produces , it is a good book and i mean , i couldn't put it down (even if one bit especially did nearly turn my stomach 360...bed brake pedal..for anyone that's read it).
It's very different from anything ive read , sure ive read books that are detailed when it comes to such 'taboo' subjects , and books that focus on a very controversial topic but never anything quite like this.
I wouldn't read it again , and i very much doubt i would recommend it to anyone i know but all i can say is it's a page turner and it's unique.
Some of the stuff the main character comes out with is quite refreshing and im sure there will be things the reader can connect with on some level , you might read things and think 'oh my god yeah i do that' or 'haha yeah..' .
So if you're curious , have a strong stomach and don't mind books that a bit out there, then i'd recommend.
If you have a weak stomach , are easily offended and have never read anything other than romance novels & you've ended up here by some weird twist or turn , id suggest you hit that back arrow and continue looking at what you previously were. You'll thank me.
on 20 February 2009
If you REALLY want to know what is happening in the lives of decadent Western youth...
This is certainly an intimate and candid account of one girl's life - not only her sex-life but that certainly features LARGE! It is her wilful disregard for the rules of hygiene which is her real rebellion. Compulsive and exhibitionist are words which come to mind... but pretty quickly the revelations stop being exciting or shocking and then it becomes a struggle to understand, to rationalize, to process... what is going on?
To Helen, sex is an exploration and appreciation of the human body and its sensations. Nothing new in that... except here sex is not tied in any way to a relationship. Perhaps that is nothing new either, after all `Lady Chatterley's Lover' - finally published in 1960 - pointed out that women have desires and wills of their own which sometimes fall outside traditional roles. Perhaps the only difference is today we no longer any convention to fight against, no more taboos...?
Helen may not always get what she wants, but she knows what she likes and has no qualms about going after it! As she reminisces, it is clear her choices are deliberate and conscious. The fact that she visits (female) prostitutes shows the level of control she has.
So, is this where Western democracy, women's liberation and a liberal lifestyle leads us to? The world is changing, has changed, however reluctant we are to accept it. You don't have to be a radical Muslim cleric to be concerned, perhaps just a parent.
But Helen, and the book, is more than that - her attempts to re-unite her parents seem pathetic and tragic, they add a dimension of longing and even desperation to her character.
And the book? Will people in 50 years know the title `Wetlands' the way we recognise `Lady Chatterley's Lover' today? I think not. I imagine this rash of female expose literature will fade quietly away and be relegated to a small footnote in history.