MEMORY OF WATER by EMMI ITARANTA
PB, 266 pages, Harper Voyager
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I first became aware of Emmi Itaranta in the pages of Finnish Weird, the magazine produced to promote the now-successful bid for WorldCon in Helsinki in 2017 where I was intrigued by the ideas she described and the plot of Memory of Water, so the moment I was lucky enough to stumble across a copy I snapped it up. I urge you to do the same.
It’s a strange book, not quite dystopian, not quite SF, quite strange and quite beautiful. Noria is training to be a tea-master, like her father, in a future Finland under the rule of the New Qian, and on her seventeenth birthday she is entrusted with his greatest secret, access to a fresh-water underground spring, In a land where water is rationed and strictly controlled, where “water crimes” are punishable by execution, it’s a dangerous secret, and it grows ever more dangerous as Noria and her best friend Sanja uncover the past in the plastic graveyard near the town. The truth seeps out, as insidious and unstoppable as water, bringing dangerous consequences for both Noria and Sanja.
The writing is lush and poetic, contrasting the harshness, the sand and insects of Noria’s village with the cool and damp of the secret spring. Water is everywhere, flowing through the characters, through the prose. It’s in the bubbles in the cauldron of the tea ceremony, the blood that flows through Noria’s father’s fading veins, the drip of a struggling tap and the gush of secret, hidden water below the fell.
An outstanding book; by turns as light as the sparkle of sunlight on dew, or dark enough to compress your heart and leave you gasping for air. Highly recommended.