BOOK REVIEW: Wetlands, by Charlotte Roche

RELEASE DAY: February 23, 2009
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins
FORMAT: Paperback
SOURCE: Purchased

Helen Memel lies in the Department of Internal Medicine at Maria Hilf Hospital. While she waits for her divorced parents to come and visit her – who she hopes will finally be reconciled by the side of her hospital bed – she begins to examine those parts of her body usually seen as distinctly ‘unladylike’. She lets the orderly, Robin, take photos of those areas her curious gaze can’t reach. And, on the side, she tends to her collection of avocado stones – which also happen to provide her with invaluable sexual services … 

Wetlands takes an unflinching, and very funny, look at one of the last remaining taboos of today. Courageous, radical and provocative, Charlotte Roche’s novel rebels against hygiene hysteria, the sterile aesthetics of women’s magazines and standardized dealings with the female body and its sexuality. This is a wonderfully wild story of a heroine both pleasure-seeking and vulnerable, who voices what others do not even dare to think.


I’ve always taken the stand that once I’m a certain ways through a book, I have to finish it. (Not really the case when I was reading my nephew’s books – there I just ran out of time … well, that and a general annoyance towards the goofiness of the book.) This is something that is pushed even more if I actually purchased the book myself. Case in point: Reading the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. After reading that, I felt like I had been violated in some way.

Well, while I may have felt violated after reading Dead Until Dark, I have to admit that that book was definitely more flying horses and rainbows than my current read: Wetlands, by Charlotte Roche. Apparently a big seller in Germany (the copy I read was translated from German), this book was all the rage when it was to be released in Canada. Maybe I should have read a review about the book at some point because I could not see how I would make it past the first few pages, let alone actually finish the book.

Just for the sake of comparison, I went to both and to see how many stars were given to this book:, 1.5 stars,, 2.5 stars. If it were up to me, I would probably veto the whole star ranking system and mark my distaste for this novel by number of disposable Airline vomit bags I would have gone through reading this book. What also amazes me is that no rating from the Canadian Amazon is higher than 3 stars, whereas a whopping 5 people on the American Amazon gave it 5 stars.

Were we all reading the same book??

Growing up, we all learn how to behave both publicly and privately. I’m not too sure that Charlotte Roche did (considering this book is supposed to be semi-autobiographical). Even if there are things that we’ve been told not to talk about, doesn’t mean that they should be talked about. And just because they were talked about, does that mean that all that talk should be commended just for getting put out there? I did not need to hear about the main character’s hemorrhoids, or the fact that she eats many things that come off or out of her own body. I did not need to know what her thoughts on personal hygiene are (that is, she doesn’t seem to do anything for her own hygiene – and I don’t even want to get into specifics.) or what her “cauliflower” looked like (and tasted like!) after it was cut off of her body.

I felt sick, violated, and very uncomfortable while reading this. Do you know what I do when I read? I eat lunch, or dinner, or breakfast. I had to start reading a whole separate book now for those meals because I just couldn’t eat anything while reading this book. There’s a marketing scheme! Want to lose a few pounds? Read Charlotte Roche’s book, Wetlands, over and over again! You’ll never want to eat a thing! Roche takes a simple subject at the beginning of the book and slowly works her way through many disgusting and uncomfortable stories and scenarios that one 18-year-old girl couldn’t have possibly gone through. Has no one taught this girl good morals and judgment?

Halfway through the book I just had to go online and look up this Charlotte Roche. Surely there must be something wrong with her! But no, a beautiful young girl, looking like Audrey Hepburn and very well put-together. Even though I just wanted a picture, I had to look up a bio to see what was going on (since she definitely couldn’t have written this book!). Apparently she left school early, formed a band, and then tried to do whatever she could to shock people.

This book is shocking, but not in a good way. Not in an oh-my-gosh-I-finished-this-great-book-and-have-to-tell-my-friends-about-it kind of way, but more like an oh-my-gosh-I-just-finished-this-horrible-book-and-feel-like-I-need-to-disinfect-everything-and-then-build-a-fire-so-I-can-burn-the-evidence kind of way. I’m not entirely too sure how this book is so huge in Germany. Kind of makes me not want to visit Germany if people actually like this stuff.

However, let me say one thing that is kind of shocking: It wasn’t all bad. Despite the fact that Helen talks about things I’d rather not have put in my head, partway through the book we realize that it’s a story about a young girl who comes from a broken home. All she wants to do is help her parents get back together and if she has to reopen the wound on her butt (yeah – I got very squirmish at this part), then she’ll do it.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. So her parents don’t get back together and in the end, Helen leaves to live with one of her nurses, Robin, who she felt she had a connection with. Totally unbelievable and kind of a cop-out for an ending.

Already I feel like I’ve wasted too much time with a review on this book because all I want to do is forget about it. This is probably the first time I’ve bought a book solely because I saw it everywhere – ultimately thinking it would offer thoughtful insight about women, not flat-out nymphomania – and it’ll probably be the last time. While I have a book from my shelf out of the way, I’m sad to have wasted time on this drivel.

Oprah beware! – if you didn’t like James Frey, you will not like Charlotte Roche.

Now, off to toss this book in the trash because I do NOT want this on my bookshelf longer than it needs to be.


My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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