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Teemestarin kirja by Emmi Itäranta

Teemestarin kirja (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Emmi Itäranta

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2742541,373 (3.84)26
Title:Teemestarin kirja
Authors:Emmi Itäranta
Info:Helsinki : Teos, 2012
Collections:Your library, Favorites

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Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta (2012)


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English (21)  Finnish (3)  English (24)
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In a future of our world where the polar ice caps have melted, and the maps have been redrawn as nations disappear under salt waves, potable water has become a scarce resource, and the citizens of the New Qian-ruled Scandinavian Union thrive -- barely -- on desalinated water rationed by the government. The penalties for water crimes are harsh; for concealing and tapping a fresh spring, they are deadly. Noria Kaitio’s family have guarded the spring for generations, and when Noria turns 17, her father, the village tea master, brings her into the secret of its maintenance as he prepares to inaugurate her as the next tea master.

Memory of Water is one of my favourite things: A novel in which the setting is, if not yet apocalyptic, certainly trending that way, but the tale told is an intimate one. This is not about humanity’s grand escape from the brink of annihilation. It’s about a young woman and her family and how they preserve civility in a culture where it is constantly threatened by desperation. The secret of the spring and the decisions that have to be taken to preserve it are important, but equally important is the role of tea master, of the elaborate rituals preserving peace and politeness, of providing the luxury and companionship of the tea house. This is a world where every cup is precious, and the tea masters elevate the partaking of it into something precious as well.

We don’t get to see a lot of how this world came to be, because much of that story is lost to the people living in it as well, so the world beyond the village is painted in broad strokes. The fusion of Chinese and Finnish culture, along with the preoccupation with water brought about by the times, would be fascinating to see more of, but a more detailed approach might have cost the novel some of the ethereality which contrasts so movingly with the desperation of the circumstances it describes. When it is showcased, though, it leads to such striking imagery as the Moonfeast and the Ocean-Dragons.

I didn’t find the message at all heavy-handed. It’s obvious that you cannot write a novel about a water-starved future without the consequences of global warming becoming starkly clear, but the author doesn’t bang the drum, the tone being mournful rather than urgent. This is a future where the battle is lost, and the people of that future give us about as much consideration as we’re giving them. Certainly compared to novels like The Windup Girl or Kim Stanley Robinson’s Capitol trilogy, the didacticism is light.

I found Noria most interesting in her relationships with others. We’re treated to a lot of her inner self, but internally I found her difficult to relate to until the end drew near, as she has an emotional distance that’s not unfitting. She’s like one of those people who, even in the peak of health, seems to be in the process of dying, and whose life is primarily a sequence of letting go. In this, she’s the ideal representative of the humanity of her time. One of the reasons I really liked her friendship with Sanja is because Sanja seemed to spark moments of life back into her, despite her own troubles, just by being present. At the Moonfeast, for a moment, they get to lay aside this ruined world and just be girls, and it’s as beautiful as Ocean-Dragons. Another is the way they encompassed the realistic strain of a friendship involving poverty and comparative wealth, which here is the illicit wealth of water, but didn’t let it tear them apart even though the world around them might.

Emmi Itäranta’s prose alone makes the book a treat to read. It’s delicate and sublime, and the whole work feels laced with sorrow. It’s all the more impressive that Itäranta wrote the manuscript in two languages -- she penned both the Finnish and English editions of the novel. That this is also her debut novel in both languages makes it a stunning accomplishment.

Memory of Water has earned its place on my favourites shelf, and I’ll be awaiting the author’s next work with great interest.

Review from Bookette.net ( )
  Snumpus | Aug 10, 2016 |
The story failed to pull me in at the beginning, but I held out hope that it would get better. It never did.

I had so many problems with this book, I don't know where to start. The setting is very bleak, which is fine when combined with a decent plot, but that isn't the case here. The flow of the story is stagnant and the characters are about as dull as a box of rocks. The sense of place is severely lacking. Ridiculously convenient coincidences abound. The writing is often repetitive and VERY flowery. I couldn't read one page without inane meandering passages describing what was happening inside and outside with bugs and dust and water and tea and the human life span, or without the painful attempts to make everything sound poetic. Blah. Sometimes less is more.

The plot is so skeletal that without the fluff this book could have been less than 100 pages, possibly even 80. I've never had such a hard time picking up such a short book after having put it down, but I finished it and was glad it was finally over. I almost gave it 1 star but it's more like a 1.5. Needless to say, I don't recommend it.
( )
  CosimaS | Jul 3, 2016 |
In a world of scarcity post climate change water is a precious commodity. A story of traditions versus a military regime with political overtones. ( )
  kale.dyer | Jun 12, 2016 |
What a treat! I received this book as a Goodreads First Reads giveaway, and I'm thrilled that it lived up to my expectations.

It could be called a YA dystopian novel. But that would undermine the beauty of this book. The prose is poetic, enveloping the reader in the metaphor and symbolism of water with every page. Water is the key element of Life and for Life, but also has close ties to Death. The village tea master, then, uniquely understands both Life and Death in ancient ways.

The story has a female teenager as the heroine, and her best friend is along for the ride as well. It's refreshing to see these two young women being smart, resourceful, brave, loyal and true. It's sad that even in some future version of our world, it's not hard to imagine women being marginalized, or that those in power will keep the truth from the masses. With these timeless elements in place, the author is able to tell her futuristic tale to us today.

And this tale is also cautionary: what will happen to the future generations when we pass the point of no return on global warming? For people will survive, but what will that look like? What kind of future are we crafting for the people alive 200 years from now? Is this tale fiction, or more of a prophecy for those brave enough to listen to it?

This isn't my usual genre at all, but I'm really glad I read it. It was good to read something different, and something from a Finnish author - don't think I've ever done that before. Good reminders of how many worlds within literature one can find with just a little digging. ( )
  LauraCerone | May 26, 2016 |
Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta is a highly recommended, sensitive dystopian novel set in a future where water is scarce and controlled by the military.

Noria Kaitio, 17, is studying with her father to continue the family tradition of tea master. Set in future Finland, now part of the New Qian empire of Asia and Europe, global warming has made many areas of the world uninhabitable. Water shortages are common and what water there is is strictly controlled by the military and rationed out. When Noria learns the secrets of being a tea master, a role traditionally only held by males, and all the teahouse ceremony involves, she also learns a bigger secret: the location of a hidden spring unknown to anyone but her father.

Major Bolin has been protecting her father but when Commander Taro comes on the scene it becomes clear that he is suspicious and plans to discover their secret and destroy her family.

Noria also explores the plastic filled landfills of garbage with her friend Sanja, who is able to repair many broken things. They find a disk that mentions yet another secret, a secret Noria also wants to learn.
This dystopian novel by Finnish author Itäranta is set in one small area of a very change future world. Although some of the large global scale catastrophes are hinted at or mentioned, the setting remains in this one small part of Finland and the story stays focused on the effects the new world has on one person in that small part of the new world.

The writing in Memory of Water can be described as poetic, delicate, atmospheric, and expressive. The juxtaposition of a hard, harsh world being described in beautiful prose can be startling, but the contrast helps set the tone of despair even as the carefully crafted writing flows along so seductively. While there is tension in this novel, it is not overwhelming. It flows along at an even pace, picking up speed slowly.

Although not stated, I'd place this among other YA dystopian fiction selections based on the age of the character and the uncomplicated linear plot. The writing is a step up from most YA selections, however.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes.

harpervoyagerbooks.com/2014/05/27/excerpt-of-the-memory-of-water-by-emmi-itaranta/ ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Emmi Itärantaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Aleshyn, AndreiCover photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Itäranta, EmmiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, AdamCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Everything is ready now.
The ceremony is over when there is no more water.
Once the silent space around a secret is shattered, it cannot be made whole again.
Of all silences I had encountered this was the gravest and most inevitable: not the silence of secrets, but of knowing.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Dystopian tale
With strong environmental
Message: bleak's the word.

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"The award-winning speculative debut novel, now in English for the first time! In the far north of the Scandinavian Union, now occupied by the power state of New Qian, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio studies to become a tea master like her father. It is a position that holds great responsibility and a dangerous secret. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that once provided water for her whole village. When Noria's father dies, the secret of the spring reaches the new military commander. and the power of the army is vast indeed. But the precious water reserve is not the only forbidden knowledge Noria possesses, and resistance is a fine line. Threatened with imprisonment, and with her life at stake, Noria must make an excruciating, dangerous choice between knowledge and freedom"-- "An amazing, award-winning dystopian debut novel by a major new talent"--… (more)

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