Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Book Review: Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta

Pros: lyrical prose, philosophical, characters face difficult choices

Cons: slow

In a world where water is tightly controlled by the military, Noria Kaitio is training as her father’s apprentice to become a tea master.  Tea masters historically had a duty to preserve sacred springs, and her family has kept the knowledge of one in the fells behind their house secret for decades.  But Noria finds it hard to keep the secret as her best friend Sanja and their village suffer under harsher and harsher conditions. 

This is a novel about the importance of water and how people survive under challenging circumstances.  It’a a novel that questions motives and wonders who’s trustworthy in a world where helping others will get you killed.

There’s very little action and the story is unravelled slowly.  There’s foreshadowing of the ills to come and some gorgeous, lyrical prose.  There’s also a lot of contemplative passages, mostly about water, but also about being in the moment, noticing the little things that always escape notice.  It’s a novel about thinking deeply about life and appreciating the life you have, because life is always changing and you can never regain what you’ve lost.

Despite the slowness with which the plot unfolds, the novel is a quick read.  The characters and the situations they find themselves in are intensely interesting.

It’s a beautiful novel, and sad.  And while it contains hope, it acknowledges that sacrifices are required and that not everyone lives to see better days.

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