Memory of Water

Emmi Itäranta
Memory of Water Cover

Memory of Water


I'm supposed to be reading another Star Wars book, but the next one in the chronology is slow making it to my house, so I picked a book from my backlog to read in the meantime. It was a good choice.

Memory of Water is set in the near-future, after our climate has been destroyed, leaving the world in a water-poor, hot, insect-infested environment. Inexplicably, tea houses and tea ceremonies are still a thing in this world, despite the practice requiring a great deal of water. With a war still going on, and with water rationing becoming tighter and tighter, the source and quality of the tea master's water becomes an item of great concern for the army.

This is a brief novel (266 pages), which is an achievement in and of itself, considering the world-building that Itäranta does. The story is still set on Earth, which saves some time, but creating a post-apocalyptic novel with new forms of communication and travel still takes some time to develop. That she also creates the world while creating very realized characters, and a plot to keep things moving along, is nothing short of amazing.

The story has a gentle, calculated, unassuming pace, while also having a good amount of tension to keep the reader engaged. It's bleak, but not without hope. It's also lyrical, with several metaphors of water as life, and it's full of thoughtful observations on humanity without being overwhelmingly so. It's a perfect blend of form and function.

Memory of Water is a first novel. It was also written in Finnish and English by the author, instead of her relying on a translator. And it's a powerful, moving, thoughtful piece of fiction.