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Memory of Water: A Novel Paperback – June 10, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


“An emotionally nuanced study in morality, which draws its suspense from love, choices, and the mark that everyone leaves on the world.” (Helsingin Sanomat - Finland newspaper)

“An exceptionally fine debut novel in which all elements come together in a controlled and well-considered manner. At the same time, the novel is fascinating and addictive.” (Turun Sanomat - Finland newspaper)

“Where Itäranta shines is in her rejection of conventional plots and in her understated but compelling characters. The work is a deceptively tranquil examination of a world of dust and ashes where the tenacious weed of hope still survives.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“The writing is gorgeous and delicate in this dystopian award-winning debut, which is unique in both its setting and the small scale that Finnish author Itäranta employs.” (Library Journal (starred review) on Memory of Water)

“Itäranta’s lyrical style makes this dystopian tale a beautiful exploration of environmental ethics and the power of ritual.” (Washington Post Book World on MEMORY OF WATER)

“[Memory of Water] is simultaneously a coming-of-age story, a fantastic adventure, and a bold warning about a future that is all too real.” (Portland Book Review on MEMORY OF WATER)

From the Back Cover

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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager; 1st edition (June 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062326155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062326157
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Christopher on January 26, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
The writing isn't too bad, the novel reads quite well. The characters are alive and engaging. What doesn't quite make sense is the world they inhabit and the society they live in:

1) It's strange that relatively simple technology, like tape and CD recorders, etc. hasn't survived, while the much more sophisticated and requiring a complex infrastructure one - like "pods" and photovoltaic has.
2) A reason for tightening the screw (or rather the tap) by the military dictatorship isn't explained and makes neither political nor economic sense, the population seems to be quiet and obedient enough without it. Lots of resources are put to policing the water usage, for no apparent reason or purpose.
3) Extended isolation of water law offenders and only then killing them makes no sense, in a real totalitarian society they would be either immediately summarily executed or taken away, without wasting time on guarding and feeding them in their homes for weeks/months.
4) There seems to be neither economic nor political basis for that society. What do the people live on? Agriculture - no, because of lack of water. Industry - no it's dead. Extraction - the same. And yet there's enough resources for medical centres and doctors, elaborate tea ceremonies, trains, universities, etc. And how are they governed? All we see are the soldiers from the Water Guard and the checkpoints.
5) What's the reason for keeping the "Lost Lands" and their water resources a forbidden secret?? Again it makes neither political nor scientific, nor economic sense.
6) The heroine is a bit naive - that's OK, she's only 18, but so passive. She ignores for a long time the suffering of others in the enforced water shortages and then meekly accepts her fate.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In hauntingly beautiful prose, Emmi Itäranta's "Memory of Water" is one of the finest dystopian speculative fiction novels I have read, worthy of comparison with Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale", George Orwell's "1984" and Walter Miller's "A Canticle for Leibowitz", offering readers a future that is as bleak and as terrifying as those depicted in Atwood, Orwell and Miller's celebrated novels. It is also one of the year's best debut novels, written by a novelist who is familiar with the genre of speculative fiction, and one worthy of a wide readership. Centuries after global warming has destroyed modern civilization, with China now the ruler of the world, "Memory of Water" is set in what was once Finland, part of the Scandinavian Union, now ruled by the Chinese dictatorial state of New Qian. In a style almost reminiscent of early Ursula K. Le Guin, Itäranta introduces us to seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio, who becomes the last member of her family to become a tea master, an important ceremonial position that helps bind the community, while also allowing the bearer to possess important secrets regarding water usage. After her father dies and her mother leaves for an academic position in distant China, Kaitio embarks on a struggle to preserve her father's secrets, while also learning something unexpected about the final years of the "Twilight Century", the last century of global technological civilization, brought to an end by wars and the unrelenting spread of global warming. Readers should note that this is indeed a depressing novel to read, but one worth reading thanks to Itäranta's superb, often poetic, elegant prose and excellent storytelling.Read more ›
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By rebelmomof2 VINE VOICE on June 10, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have been on a YA kick lately with all of the books I have chosen from Vine. This is perhaps my favorite book. It is thoughtful, lyrical and the subject matter is haunting. This is a futuristic novel where water is all but unobtainable, the world has changed and water is highly coveted especially as it is deeply rationed. It is a gloomy outlook where people are divided into the have-nots and the haves. I

Noria is an apprentice for her father who is a Tea Master, who clings onto the ancient style of tea-making (think of the Japanese tea houses with its elaborate ceremonies) and he alone knows the source of the hidden spring where water is abundant. This isn't just any water; this is water that is pure and free of contaminants. It is what makes their tea so delicious. The spring is hidden from the military because Noria's father didn't want to give in one more thing to the military.

It is so easy to gush over this novel and spoil it for others unintentionally so I'll stop here. This is simply a thought-provoking novel of "what if." I didn't give it a five because it wasn't as complete as I had hoped for since it could be fleshed out a bit more with more character defining and maybe a bit more description on life in those times. It isn't an action book like some of the other futuristic novels that are out there. It is a slower-moving work but still elegant. It is still powerful in its message.

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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By James Huff VINE VOICE on May 7, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At its best, the language of this novel is lyrical, almost magical, dream-like; fresh metaphors and striking imagery combine with a sharp, observant edge to create lasting images in the reader's mind.

Unfortunately, the book often falls far short of its best passages. For much of the novel, the writing can be described as clumsy, obvious; at its worst, veering toward cliché. For example, many passages include a description of the sky; something along the lines of "the sky was a hazy barrier of white and great and pale blue," or "the overcast sky arched in the color of polished metal". None of these descriptions appear to advance the story, or add to the atmosphere of the novel in a meaningful way; after the first five or seven or ten descriptions of this kind, they begin to feel like puffery, or empty filler.

The book is also marred by some glaring inconsistencies in plot and characterization. I don't want to give away too much of the story here, so I won't reveal any details. Suffice it to say, I kept wishing that the author (or an editor) had taken more time with the story, let it percolate longer, and revised, revised, revised.

I wanted to like this novel more than I did. Other reviewers have compared it to works by Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, or Ursula K. LeGuin. In my opinion this novel comes nowhere near the quality or power of those authors' works. True, there are flashes of a remarkable talent in the best passages; yet ultimately this feels like a first effort, an unfinished work that needed more time and care to polish it into something worthwhile.
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