Please note: The book thoughts on Wetlands by Charlotte Roche may not be for the faint hearted or prudish, if you would like to skip this post then you can discuss Agatha Christie just here instead.
I know it sounds a bit silly putting that at the start of the post today (though as is human nature you might all read on regardless) but I wouldn’t want to offend anyone and with a book like this I think that its worth popping that note in first before going any further, so there is still time for you to click away. All joking aside I do think that books like Wetlands should come with some kind of warning somewhere on the book as I don’t think any synopsis could quite prepare you for what you are about to read.
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, open and supposedly 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.
I have nothing against graphic/controversial/explicit fiction and actually think some of it is much needed to tell the tale. American Psycho, which I enjoyed and found fascinating but would be unlikely to read again because of how darkly graphic it is, wouldn’t be so powerful if it wasn’t for the parts that make for incredibly difficult reading. Novel Insights has often recommended reading Anais Nin who is a classic author and does, from the two short stories I have read so far, write graphic erotica but its beautifully written and also thought provoking.
It does seem odd yesterday was writing about Dame Agatha Christie and now this, shows I read a diverse selection I guess! So the question that this book has brought up that I shall put out there for discussion is… when does the graphic become the shocking to sell, have you any examples or feelings on this?