by Emmi Itaranta
An amazing, award-winning speculative fiction debut novel by a major new talent, in the vein of Ursula K. Le Guin. Global warming has changed the world's geography and its politics. Wars are waged over water, and China rules Europe, including the Scandinavian Union, which is occupied by the power state of New Qian. In this far north place, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio is learning to become a tea master like her father, a position that holds great responsibility and great secrets. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that Noria's father tends, which once provided water for her whole village. But secrets do not stay hidden forever, and after her father's death the army starts watching their town-and Noria. And as water becomes even scarcer, Noria must choose between safety and striking out, between knowledge and kinship. Imaginative and engaging, lyrical and poignant, Memory of Water is an indelible novel that portrays a future that is all too possible.
Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta is a speculative fiction and one of the first I have read. The writing is beautiful and the tradition of the tea master fascinating. Set against the harsh backdrop of a world changed by global warming and ruled by China, Itaranta shares with us the life of seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio. Filled with politics and the harsh realities of an occupied town with a water shortage the language held me captive.
• The language is descriptive, and Itaranta paints the world with her words giving me a panoramic view bringing the sights, sounds and smells to life. It is a harsh, depressing landscape and yet she allows us to see the hidden beauty.
• The tradition of the tea master and ceremony was charming. I enjoyed the description of the ceremony, the teahouse and the connection to water that a tea master feels. Her writing is lyrical and key phrases commit themselves to your memory. She makes water a living, breathing thing.
• While aspects such as the ceremony are beautiful, we also see the darkness in this oppressed world from the desperation of the people to the power of the soldiers occupying the area.
• It is a coming of age story as Noria deals with loss, the harness of the landscape, its people and honoring the traditions and responsibility of her legacy.
• Friendship, mystery and thought-provoking questions are examined in Memory of Water. I enjoyed the friendship between Noria and Sanja.
• Memory of Water while beautifully written unfolds in a slow pace. Moments are intense, but this book will not be for everyone. It is at times dark and bleak and does not offer the reader a happily ever after. It is meant to be a cautionary tale, to prompt the reader to question and reflect.
• The writing is beautiful, lyrical and full of meaning, but the author often repeats phrases as she strives to deliver her message. I fear this may turn some off.
• While I understood the conflict Noria had with the secret she carried, I do not feel the author made it believable enough. I would have liked a stronger history with why it was kept hidden for centuries.
• Noria’s relationship to her parents was odd, and while I felt, they loved each other the parents were not fleshed-out. I did not quite understand the mother and her actions.
• Itaranta does an excellent job of describing the present world, its conflict, politics and despair. However, we are offered very little, as to how this world came to be. A mysterious story emerges about travelers and a discovery. I found it fascinating, and I wanted to learn more leaving me disappointed.
• The ending is obscure, although the reader fully understands what will occur. While I appreciated the epilogue it presented me with more questions.
Memory of Water is not meant to be consumed, rather the reader should allow it to flow through them and ponder. It is both unusual and brilliant, complex and simple. While this book will not be for everyone, it is one will stay with you.
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