Jacqie's Reviews > Memory of Water

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta
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** spoiler alert ** This is a YA cli-fi book, so it's got a lot of the identity themes of YA and all the grimness of the futureless future of climate change fiction.

If you accept the premise of the book, it will be a lot easier to get into and if I could have done that I'd probably have rated the book higher. Why couldn't I buy in? In this far future world, climate change has drastically reduced the amount of water available. Water is often rationed and the book takes place in a scarcity culture in the desert that was once Finland. However, the village that Noria, our protagonist, lives in boasts a tea master (her father). Her family has a lush garden, grows its own food to a certain extent, and of course has the water for tea ceremonies. Meanwhile, beyond Noria's house gate, the landscape is dry and people scavenge in old landfills for bits of metal or technology, most of which is no longer understood. How on earth does a tea master rate hoarding all this water? How can the village put up with it? While tea ceremonies are done at life-marking events or just for entertainment if you're wealthy, it hardly seems fair. Sure, it's a mark of pride to have a village with a celebrated tea master. But if it comes down to tea or crops for next year, I think I know what I'd choose. Noria knows that she's privileged but doesn't seem to get quite how privileged she really is- maybe that's the point the author is trying to make after all. But it doesn't seem like Noria ever really gets it.

And that's before the hidden aquifer that Noria's father protects even comes into it. His argument is that tea masters have traditionally protected water sources and that he doesn't want the government to take it over and then ration it out unfairly. But how is that worse than having your own private water source while the village suffers? This is never really addressed.

This hidden water is the source of tension for the book. A new government official comes sniffing around and it's clear that he has his suspicions. Noria's family begins to change and she is eventually left on her own, a novice tea master with a secret too big for her.

The book presents a grim future. The world is slowly beginning to burn, and most people don't look forward to much of a future for themselves and possibly no future at all for their children. Noria begins to have a bit more insight into the larger world but even her secret won't change much in the long run.

Noria is a naive and privileged girl. I suppose she could be a stand-in for some of our wealthier nations, living in our gardens while the rest of the world dries up. The writing is lush and introspective, if somewhat dramatic in parts. I think if you look at the book as a parable more than as a story in and of itself, you will probably enjoy it more. I'm just more literal-minded than that, and I found myself annoyed by choices that I wouldn't have made. Of course, I'm not seventeen years old anymore either.
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Reading Progress

February 27, 2016 – Shelved
February 27, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
Started Reading
June 14, 2016 – Finished Reading

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