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Review: Wrecked, By Charlotte Roche

A marriage dissected in graphic detail

Charlotte Roche received international recognition for her debut novel Wetlands. This coming-of-age story about a teenage girl awaiting surgery for an anal fissure sparked debate about the sanitisation of female sexuality, and the social pressures placed on women to follow a strict hygiene regime.

In Wrecked Roche explores these themes in the context of fidelity, marriage and motherhood. This semi-autobiographical story is narrated over three days by Elizabeth Kiehl, a woman obsessed with being the perfect wife for her husband, Georg, and a model mother to her seven-year-old daughter, Liza. Beneath this façade she is a neurotic control-freak, fixated with death, revenge and sex, plagued by suicidal thoughts, anxious about her breast-size, and fearful that her husband may leave her. She visits her therapist three times a week to try to heal the mental harm she suffered following a tragedy that haunts her daily life.

Elizabeth will do anything to sexually satisfy her husband. They watch pornography, regularly visit brothels together, and indulge in threesomes. Roche observes bodily secretions, movements and genitals with a forensic eye, relaying everything in graphic detail that is at times grotesquely pornographic, but always bitingly accurate.

The novel's intensity is mitigated by Elizabeth's comical overreactions. She is first "sad, then angry" when Georg refuses to inspect her anus when it is revealed that Liza has infected the family with worms: "I left my parents for a man like this? Great. I guess I'm totally alone."

Elizabeth expresses thoughts that are taboo. She loves her daughter "above all else", but also feels "she has ruined my life". She admits being mentally cruel to her stepson because she is jealous. She believes that "Monogamy can be such a prison sometimes!" and longs for Georg's consent to sleep with other men.

Wrecked offers a condemning commentary on the unrealistic and damaging pressures placed on women as wives and mothers. Roche's writing is as compelling and complex as it is salacious and explicit, expertly dissecting the basis of relationships to show that traditional ideals have no place in the modern marriage. This thought-provoking, original novel highlights the urgent need to liberate women from the shackles of gender stereotyping.