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Teemestarin kirja by Emmi Itäranta
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Teemestarin kirja (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Emmi Itäranta

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2872739,220 (3.85)28
Member:nanan
Title:Teemestarin kirja
Authors:Emmi Itäranta
Info:Helsinki : Teos, 2012
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

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Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta (2012)

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English (23)  Finnish (3)  All (26)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
A few years ago I visited a specialized tea place in Barcelona, Spain. A quiet space, with dozens and dozens of fresh, handpicked, rare teas to choose from – each tea requiring its own precise water temperature & seeping duration. I don’t know anything about tea, and I asked for the “most complex” tea they had – thinking tasting tea was like tasting wine or whiskey. The woman serving me looked at me in surprise, at first not even understanding my question. It turned out tea is not about complexity at all. Those reviewers that complain about this book being boring, about having a plot in which nothing happens, similarly miss the point.

Emmi Itäranta’s debut novel is a quiet dystopian novel, set in a future where climate change has happened, fresh water is scarce and China has annexed Scandinavia. The 266 page book’s protagonist is Nario Kaitio, 17, and the daughter and apprentice of a tea master in a rural Scandinavian village, way up north. At the beginning of the novel, her father lets her in on a secret: he guards a hidden spring that has been her family’s responsibility for generations. This is not without danger: all water belongs to the military, and water crimes are punishable by death.

Fiction about futures with water shortage isn’t particularly rare. Itäranta does not break new ground, but nevertheless has managed to write a book with a voice of her own. Expect no action packed book like The Water Knife, nor something like the Fremen with a fully worked out water mythology as in Dune.

What you do get is (...)

Please continue reading on Weighing A Pig ( )
  bormgans | Jan 19, 2017 |
An understated piece on a near future dystopia. ( )
  AlanPoulter | Jan 7, 2017 |
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 |
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» Add other authors

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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Epigraph
Dedication
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Everything is ready now.
Quotations
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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Haiku summary
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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