2009 Books in Translation

Wetlands by Charlotte Roache

Wetlands Translated from the German by Tim Mohr

Five words from the blurb: intimate, body, provocative, taboo, hygiene

Wetlands is a provocative book that investigates all aspects of female hygiene. It contains graphic descriptions of bodily functions, including detailed descriptions of vaginal discharge and the after effects of rectal surgery. The central character is Helen, an eighteen-year-old girl who is in hospital after a shaving accident resulted in an infection “down-below”. Her parents are divorced and she thinks that if she stays in hospital they may get back together.

I was unsure about whether or not to review this on my blog as it was nauseating to read. It contained endless disgusting descriptions of everything from popping boils to leaving used tampons to sweat in a box. I’ve never read anything like it and was totally gripped by the shocking frankness. When I reached the end I realised that this is an important book. Why do I accept graphic sex and violence in books, but wince at the mention of vaginal discharge?

Whenever I went to the bathroom, sat down, and let my sphincter muscles relax so the piss could come out, I would notice afterward when I looked down – which I like to do – that there was a lovely, big, soft, white clump of slime in the water. With strings of champagne bubbles rising form it.

This book discussed many of the last taboos that exist within our society and, whilst I was repulsed by most of the things Helen did, it was fascinating to learn what goes on inside other people’s heads!

I picked this book up at my local library, where it was sat on a shelf of books that will be released as films in 2014.  Having read the book I am amazed it is being turned into a film and can only imagine the divided response it will get! I’m not sure I’m ready to see all those bodily functions on the big screen, but if you have a strong stomach you’ll find this book different from anything you’ve experienced before.



9 replies on “Wetlands by Charlotte Roache”

I told you about how I put it down two years ago, just a couple of pages in—even with my confidence that I had a high tolerance for icky. But I love what you point out: That I’m not used to this kind of icky. That I’m good with all the violence and the gore—but when it’s all body functions and all sorts of (augh) discharges, I hide the book back in my shelves.

Something to think about for when I next reach for this book. Thank you!

Annabel, Yes, I was very tempted to keep my reading of this secret, but I had a last minute change of heart. We do need to talk about this sort of thing more and I hope that this book will open a small gateway for that. Enjoy!

This is the kind of book that I probably should read but feel a bit squeamish about the thought of it. But it’s a really great conversation point – why do we not mind graphic sex or extreme violence but turn away from what is natural? I think I would probably enjoy the debate sparked more than the actual reading of the book.

Louise, It is an interesting question. I think that the book raises many good points and I’d love to listen to some people debate the issues raised (as I don’t think I’d be that comfortable discussing them myself!!)

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