Charlotte Roche's first novel, "Wetlands," provoked readers with its explicit take on sex and bodily functions. The sequel, which hones in on the less exciting act of marital sex, has big shoes to fill.
Can Charlotte Roche pull off another bestseller?
It's almost ten o'clock in the morning. An assistant at Kulturkaufhaus Dussmann, one of Berlin's biggest book shops, pulls a cart with green plastic boxes to decorate the shop window. Charlotte Roche's newest book has to get a prominent spot.
Hot-off-the-press editions of "Schossgebete" (which can be translated as "lap prayers") are piled up throughout the store. A day earlier, the premium table held seven different books; today Roche's latest work takes up the whole table.
For Bianka Krömer, who has seen a lot of bestsellers come and go during her years of working at the bookshop, it's very rare to load the premium table with just one title. The fact that about 1,000 copies were ordered in advance is unusual, too, she says.
As a sequel to Roche's first book, "Wetlands," which sold some two million copies, expectations are high for her second attempt. With half a million copies published, she has already achieved one of the largest first editions of any German-language author.
'Wetlands' was also turned into a stage production
While Bianka Krömer anticipates strong sales, she knows it won't be easy to match the success of "Wetlands" (which ran in German under the title "Feuchtgebiete"). "'Wetlands' was a really big surprise. A former TV host comes, breaks all the taboos and writes about things that haven't been written in that way before," explained Krömer.
Some reviewers questioned whether a book about intimate shaving and hemorrhoids could be regarded as literature, but that just gave more reason for readers to decide for themselves, though many were disgusted by Roche's excruciatingly detailed descriptions.
"Schossgebete" is something like an adult follow-up to "Wetlands." The latter had a pink cover; the new jacket is a deep bordeaux red. The protagonist is a 30-something woman who is married with two children.
The very first sentence lives up to the expectations of "Wetlands" fans: "As always, we turned the electric blanket on a half hour before sex."
What follows is a 15-page, at times unappetizingly precise description of the marital sex act. But then the author temporarily abandons bodily excess and turns to the inner life of the protagonist and narrator, Elizabeth, who always wants to please everybody: her husband, her daughter and her therapist.
Elizabeth sees herself as a "relationship terrorist," and "Schossebete" is like the therapy-diary of a woman who's about to go off the edge.
Book two looks much more serious - but you can't judge a book by its cover
At the heart of the novel, Roche includes an autobiographical trauma: On the way to her wedding, her three brothers were killed in a car accident. The author had never publically addressed the tragedy before, but now she seems to be finally getting it off her chest. The authentic descriptions and her natural language suggest that protagonist and author could be one and the same.
Knack for scandal
After the surprise success of "Wetlands" nobody was expecting the attractive and cheeky 33-year-old to manage a sequel. But that made her want it even more, she recently said in an interview with German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. Even though she considers herself more of an impostor than a writer, she added.
Nevertheless, the new novel is not lacking in potential for scandal.
Author: Nadine Wojcik / ef
Editor: Kate Bowen