Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Memory of Water

Noria Kaitio is following in her father’s footsteps, like each generation before her, and is training to become a Tea Master. In a world where water is rationed, the tea ceremony is a privilege, and only the most important people will come to drink their tea. Noria’s father also keeps a secret, the location of a hidden spring with the purest water. A spring that gives them all the water they could dream of.

The beginning was the day when my father took me to the place that didn't exist.

I have really mixed feelings about Memory of Water; there were some lovely pieces of writing and hints at a future following ecological disaster but the pacing was all wrong. It starts slowly, taking time over describing the tea ceremony and traditions, maybe too slowly as it felt like nothing was happening. It echoes the calmness of the ceremony itself and could have been forgiven if it weren’t for the fact that when things start to happen, they’re over in the blink of an eye, and then it ends.

Noria and her friend Sanja spend their free time trawling through the plastic grave for salvageable items or things of interest. Noria has been collecting TDKs and shiny discs, with no idea of what they are for, but when Sanja finds an object intended for playing audio, they put two and two together. I always wonder what on earth people of the future will think of our discarded items and I enjoyed the passages where they describe things without knowing their names or purpose.

The plastic grave highlights the problem with our disposable consumerism, that we throw away perfectly good things. In the future they repair plastic, one would never throw away a plastic bag, let alone more sophisticated objects. There is no more oil, so no more plastic.

A discovery in the plastic grave links the girls to the past, learning a little of the Twilight Century when the oil ran dry and the sea levels rose. But they are only glimpses of the past. The promise of a journey, and answers, never surfaces. In one way the ending felt final, yet so many things were left hanging, unfinished, unanswered.

Even if we don't see it right away, it is all happening; and if we look away long enough, we will no longer recognise the room and the landscape, when we eventually look at them again.

I’m impressed that Emmi Itäranta translated the book herself, and I don’t believe the fault is in the translation itself. It’s refreshing to read about a dystopian future from the perspective other than the UK or America. The Scandinavian Union appears to be occupied in China, with a mix of cultural references intertwined into the story. However I wasn’t ever really sure what had happened. It’s not a book to read if you are super keen on world-building and the history that comes with that.

I’ve read three, very different, books now about a future where water becomes scarce. I would say The Water Knife was my favourite, despite issues with the protagonist, as it felt cynically closest to what would probably happen, water as a commodity. In some ways, it shares that with Memory of Water but there was still a sense of water as a right here, even if it were heavily controlled. The Well was too intimate a story to get a proper sense of the drought, but again it shared something with having a source that only benefitted the few. Noria at least deals better with the situation, than the characters of The Well.

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Book Source: Purchased

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