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Book Review

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Memory of Water (Hardback)


Author: Emmi Itäranta
Publisher: Harper Voyager
RRP: £12.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 752991 9
Publication Date: 08 May 2014

Global warming and the conflict for the last remaining natural resources spelt the death of the old world, the rising waters wiped most of mankind’s cities off the face of the planet and the survivors have had to rebuild in a very different world, a world where water is in such short supply that is controlled by the military...

Memory of Water (2012. 263 Pages) is the science fiction/climate change debut novel by Emmi Itaranta, a Finnish novelist. The book is a coming of age tale in a very different world to ours. The book won the Kalevi Jäntti Literary Prize in 2012 and the Young Aleksis Kivi Prize in 2013.

I guess I was expecting a very different type of book, a post-apocalyptic thriller possibly, but what the author has created here is almost a contemplative prose poem to the nature of water, tradition and hope in a land laid to dust.

Her central character is Noria Kaitio, a seventeen year old girl who is apprenticed to her father as a master tea maker. The two hold a secret, in that, near their home there is a secret spring from which they draw their water for the tea ceremony. In a land where water is one of the scarcest resources then possession of the spring is about the most illegal act a citizen can engage in.

One of the strangest things about the book and one which dislocates the reader from the novel is that both the names of the cities, towns and their inhabitants all seem to have oriental names and yet the story is set in northern Europe.

Time is also mutable in the novel as there is no indication in what year or even century the story is set. Even the junk which is dug up from the old world is made of the sort of materials which would last at least a couple of hundred years, in the right conditions.

Through the novel we follow Noria as her world changes for the worst, whilst at the same time she discovers some disturbing information about the past. But all through this is the contemplation on water and tradition, two things which, more than any other human endeavour has stood the test of time.

Books can thrill or excite me but rarely do I come across one that can touch me with its contemplation of humanity, more than anything it reminded me of Ishiguro’s work. The book is simply beautifully written.


Charles Packer

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