Memory of Water: A Novel by Emmi Itaranta

June 11th, 2014 Kimberly Review 85 Comments

11th Jun
Memory of Water: A Novel by Emmi Itaranta
Memory of Water: A Novel
by Emmi Itaranta
Genres: Dystopian
Source: Publisher
Purchase*: Amazon *affiliate
Rating: One StarOne StarOne Star

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.

Caffeinated Aspects:

• 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.

Decaffeinated Aspects:

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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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw, Howler and proud Nonna. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

85 Responses to “Memory of Water: A Novel by Emmi Itaranta”

  1. Katie

    This sounds like a definite must read for me. Thanks so much for the review. I highly doubt I would have found this book just browsing through goodreads 🙂

    –Katie at The Pop Cultist

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It was new to me too, but I am glad I grabbed it. Thanks Katie

  2. Tyler H Jolley

    I’m very intrigued by the ending. I’m fine with a sad ending, but is it really open like “Fault in our Stars?” Because that traumatized me. I loved it, but couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks after I read it.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Tyler it is wide open tinged in sadness and leaves you flapping in the wind as to what will happen next. It felt like a cliffhanger, but there is no indication of a follow up book. Having said that, I will tell you I often find myself lying in bed at night thinking about what might have happened..and sometimes that is a good thing too.

  3. Lark

    This sounds fascinating, and I love novels with beautiful writing. I’m a bit apprehensive about the bleakness, though, so I think this will go on my “maybe someday” list rather than my “gotta read it” list.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I have to be in the mood for these type of stories too Lark 🙂

  4. Wendy Darling

    This is such a lovely review, Kimba! And it gives me a really good idea of what to expect from the book and the writing. I’m curious about this one, especially about the tea master ceremonies, though it would have to wait until I’m in a more patient mood, as sometimes I struggle with fantasy.

    I like these caffeinated/decaffeinated designations, btw! 😉

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This is a unique dystopian, and aspects are beautiful. Would love to hear your thoughts should you choose to read it Wendy.

  5. Jenea

    Why are there so many books with the open endings right now. I just read another one last week. I am one those people that need some type of conclusion. I like the sounds of this one though. Glad you enjoyed it.

  6. Jan

    Great review, Kimba! I feel like I should read this, but not sure I will right now at least. In recent years I’ve wanted happier books than this sounds like. You gave a great flavor for the book, so thanks!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Nothing wrong with wanting happy book. I don’t handle illness, break your heart tales well myself.

  7. Melliane

    It’s the first time I hear about this one I confess and the cover is a little different. Despite that the writing is beautiful the slow part bothers me a little in my reads so I think I’ll pass. thanks for the review.

  8. Andrea

    This seems like an interesting story. Thank you for sharing what did/didnt work for you!

  9. Nick

    While the writing sounds beautifully, I fear that it won’t be for me, especially with the repetitive writing and the not so HEA. I’m glad you liked it though, Kim!

  10. Maida

    The writing and world building of this book sounds absolutely amazing. I would love to experience it, and meet Noria but there seems to be many aspects that didn’t quite reach your expectations. I don’t think I would be able to handle the slow flow of narrative or the repetitiveness. But I do like coming of age stories, so I will have to check this out for a later time. Hopefully, I’ll find something enjoyable in it too. Glad you enjoyed some parts of this, Kimba! Lovely review! 😀

    ~ Maida
    Literary Love Affair 

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It is not a perfect read Maida, it is meant to be read slow, but parts are wonderful. So as a whole I enjoyed it. It isn’t one I would re-read.

  11. Felicia S. (

    I am a bit over dystopian at the moment but even though this wasn’t mind-blowing it does sound unique and interesting. I think the repeating phrases though would kill me.

  12. Braine Talk Supe

    That’s the thing with stringing too many pretty words together, it can get long, winding and redundant and not really a great style if one is writing sci-fi/fantasy. Lit & Fiction yes but in this case, I go with a more straightforward approach.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It really worked with parts and others I was like, ok I get it..LOL

  13. Lori

    The cover has a creepy feel in itself! While this sounds like an intriguing read I’m not sure it’s something I’d enjoy. I like to read to escape and this sounds like the opposite of what I usually read, I like a happy ending or the promise of one in the future…haha That being said I won’t completely right it off, sometimes I’m in the mood for something totally different and this sounds like just the book for that moment!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Yeah, the open ending was bleak with a thread of light but unless a second book is forthcoming I will be left to ponder the what ifs.

  14. Lauren

    The writing sounds striking but I’m not sure I’m in the mood for this kind of slow story, and repetitiveness does irk me. I love your balanced review! I think I might save this on my tbr list for when I’m in more of a literary mood (this summer I’m all about fun reads). Lovely review!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Lauren, it will appeal to some and others will be frustrated, I loved aspects of this.

  15. Christy

    “It is at times dark and bleak and does not offer the reader a happily ever after.”

    That belongs on the positive list. lol.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      haha…I loved the darkness, and was ok with the bleak ending but it does leave you with a lot of thought as to what happens.

  16. Franny

    I don’t think this book would be my cup of tea, but I enjoyed reading your thoughts, Kimberly! 🙂

  17. Mary

    I met this author at a BEA party and she was almost painfully shy. Not sure if it was because she was overwhelmed, because she doesn’t speak English all that well and wasn’t comfortable or if that was just her. Intrigued by the beauty of the language, though the slow pace might turn me off. I’ll have to try it and see!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Oh interesting, I noticed there are no pictures, websites or Goodreads profile for I am thinking shy.

  18. Heidi

    Hmm I like the sound of the writing, but I would struggle with the same issues especially the ending. I am getting tired of all these weird obscure, open endings we are getting. I think I would prefer a cliffhanger.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This is not for you Heidi, unless a second book develops the open, bleak ending would make you cray-cray.

  19. sherry fundin

    I was captured by the cover, intrigued by the blurb and your review finished me off. I have to be in the right mood for a book like this, but love them when I read them. Not enough books stick with long after I’ve read them, so it’s nice to think this one will.

  20. Melissa (Books and Things)

    Hm.. this looks like a standalone. I think if it is, then those questions that the ending and epilogue give you would bother me. Still, I am curious about her writing. Might have to check this one out.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      As far as I know it is a standalone. I loved aspects and other parts left me wanting.

  21. BornBookish

    It sounds like there are some aspects I would like and others I would not. The whole aspect of tea masters and tea ceremonies really intrigues me. I learned a little about them in Art History and would love to read more! The repeat phrases and obscure ending worry me though. Not sure what I’ll end up doing about this one… Great review!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It was interesting and I loved parts of it, I will say even weeks later I still think about it

  22. Candace

    I hadn’t heard of this one before. The story sounds good but the slower pace and lack of positive stuff happening has me thinking it might not be for me.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It is a book some will love and others won’t. Which is why I broke it down. I adored aspects and cringed over others

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Good, I think..LOL I loved the language and ceremonies Debbie

  23. charliegirlteachergirl

    A great review! Despite the decaffeinated aspects, which I think I can live with, I am also wondering if this would be a good read for me. The premise and concept of the novel are both very interesting to me.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Charlie, I enjoyed aspects and still contemplate how it all worked out.

  24. Laurel-Rain Snow

    It sounds like a world that could actually happen…I live in a state with water issues and drought that seems to go on forever. I can imagine something like the events in this story unfolding.

    While I enjoy lyrical prose, the repeating of phrases might annoy me…LOL.

    Sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Yes, I can picture the battles for control and the rations..horrible. Especially for a coffee addict.

  25. kindlemom1

    I wonder if this one would be for me? Lately I have been having a hard time with slow moving books. This does sound so interesting though and one I might try later on down the road when I am out of this weird book slump of mine.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It is slow, and the ending is way to open for some, but I loved parts of this so much.

  26. Ria

    I love Dystopians this looks like a good one that cover is uber creepy cool! OH NO!! More questions at the end?! What a bummer! That’s almost as bad as a cliffhanger ending for me(it might be worse) Depends I guess…I LOVED your review! So insightful! You Rock Luv!!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Ria, I still think about this and what might have happened.

  27. Ginny

    Your review is beautiful. You did a great job of balancing out the good and bad and letting us know why we will remember the book if we decide to read it. I remember this book from a Waiting on Wednesday post and I thought the premise of it was fascinating. I am going to put this in my list of maybe books for when I want a challenging read. 😉

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Ha, I think it may have been my Wow. I am glad I read it, and as I said aspects were wonderful and the book stays with you.

  28. kim { Book Swoon }

    This is why I always enjoy your reviews, Kimba. You eloquently state in the best way possible the positive and negative feelings about what you read! This one sounds unique, beautiful and stark – Thanks for the wonderful review 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Kim. This is one that people will either love or hate, so I tried to make things clear without spoilers. I adored aspects 🙂

  29. Sandra "Jeanz"

    Mmm I definitely like the sound of this and am really indulging in my favourite genre lately so this one is added to my Want To Read List on Goodreads right now! and on my Amazon Wishlist.

  30. Red Iza

    Great review, I like how you wrote about the book and how we should flow through it. I’m adding it to my list 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Enjoy my friend, I really love the descriptions in this 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      the cover is a little creepy, but this isn’t a light read. While the tea ceremony is beautiful the tone of the book is bleak.

  31. Teddyree

    The premise sounds promising and I like the many contrasts. I also like ‘slow unfolding’ when there’s so much else to appreciate.

  32. Victoria (aka Zemfirka)

    The cover caught my eye and it sounds interesting. And sometimes it’s good to read books that don’t quite follow every other popular dystopia formula. 🙂 Wonderful review.

  33. Miriam

    Ohhhh vaguely China-related spec fic. Sounds like a winner. I am definitely keeping an eye out for this.

  34. Jessica

    Umm . . . I think The Murder Complex is going to remain the ONE dystopian I check out this summer. The writing does sound beautiful, but I need a break. I’m glad you were able to still enjoy it despite your issues though 😉

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This was really different, but as I said it was slow, detailed and the ending was wide open. I was happy to try it, as it was my first speculative fiction.

  35. Livia

    Sounds like such an interesting read, I love the premise and I’d wanna try it out. Not too soon though, I think, I’m not in the right mood for this kind of read right now, what with the hated (and heated, lol) summer going on.
    Definitely looks yummy, though.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Would love to hear your thoughts if you read it Livia.

  36. Rashika

    This book sounds beautiful but I am not sure it’ll be for me. I’ll admit to being the kind of reader that seeks out happy endings and this book just sounds so intense!

    Lovely review, Kimba!! 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This ending is very open and might not be for you.

  37. finley jayne

    Wow, what a cover! This sounds similar to The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, as far as writing style goes-I think I’ll add it to my TBR list 🙂
    Great review today!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I would love to hear your thoughts if you read this Finley.

  38. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    I do love strong friendships in novels and this sounds really beautifully written. Will keep this under my radar.

    Lovely review as always, Kimba! <33

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I was thinking the same thing when I read it. “Linda should read this”