With her jaunty dissection of the sex life and the private grooming habits of the novel’s 18-year-old narrator, Helen Memel, Charlotte Roche has turned the previously unspeakable into the national conversation in Germany.
Since its debut in February, the novel (“Feuchtgebiete,” in German) has sold more than a million copies, and is the biggest selling book on Amazon anywhere in the world.
The book is a headlong dash through every crevice and byproduct, physical and psychological, of its narrator’s body and mind. It is difficult to overstate the raunchiness of the novel. Wetlands opens in a hospital room after an intimate shaving accident. It gives a detailed topography of Helen’s hemorrhoids, continues into the subject of anal intercourse and only gains momentum from there, eventually reaching avocado pits as objects of female sexual satisfaction and – here is where the debate kicks in – just possibly female empowerment. Clearly the novel has struck a nerve, catching a wave of popular interest in renewing the debate over women’s roles and image in society.