Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

Not A Drop To Drink

In Memory of Water, a world without H2O is even more grim when your father is the tea master.

Not A Drop To Drink

BOOK REPORT for Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

Cover Story: Big "O" Face
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Lyrical
Bonus Factor: Tea
Anti-Bonus Factor: Wink Abuse
Relationship Status: Perfectly Nice First Date

Cover Story: Big "O" Face

Big Face, we've got to stop meeting like this. At least you look like the main character, and I suppose the blue circle is some kind of tea symbol. But "Knowledge is power"? REALLY? The unique premise of this book deserves better than a stale tagline.

The Deal:

In the future, China seems to have taken over Europe, and water is in short supply. (Not so hard to believe, right?) Young Noria Kaitio lives in New Qian, formerly known as Scandanavia, where she trains under her father, a well-respected tea master. The tea ceremony is still celebrated by elite members of the military, but there is danger in their patronage, because water theft is punishable by death, and Noria's father hides a secret spring. Thanks to frequent garbage dump scavenging with her friend Sanja, Noria begins to piece together a past where water belonged to everyone and a future in the Lost Lands, where water might flow freely. But first she must deal with her dark and shadowy present, where she could very easily lose everything she holds dear.

BFF Charm: Meh

Noria is made of much sterner stuff than I am, and her courage and determination in the face of such a bleak world is impressive. I mean, let's be honest, I wouldn't last more than a week in New Qian, because like WHERE IS MY LA CROIX? Noria's tough, but her surroundings (and her tea master training) have made her a bit stoic, so it was difficult for me to connect with her. Even when I was inside of her head, I still felt wholly removed from her emotions, and my admiration for her never turned to affection.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

There's zero romance in this novel, although I detected some intense feelings between Noria and Sanja. (Then again, I could have been reading too much into it.) And Noria's parents' relationship is altogether heartbreaking.

Talky Talk: Lyrical

Because it's not impressive enough to pen a novel, Emmi Itäranta wrote this book simultaneously in English and Finnish. It does have a faintly foreign tinge, but that only accentuates the strange yet familiar land inhabited by Noria. Itäranta writes beautifully, although her style is cool in its elegance rather than fiery in its passion, and her descriptions freeze the action to a glacial pace. There were some lines, like this one, that I wanted to tuck away into my pocket for safekeeping:

Of all the silences I had encountered this was the gravest and most inevitable: not the silence of secrets, but of knowing.

But then there were others that seemed ripe for the Skim Treatment:

We are children of water, and water is death's close companion. The two cannot be separated from us, for we are made of the versatility of water and the closeness of death. They go together always, in the world and in us, and the time will come when our water runs dry.

This is how it happens:

Earth settles where water was, takes its place on human skin or on a green leaf sprouting from sand, and spreads the dust. The leaf, the skin, the fur of an animal slowly takes the shape and colour of earth, until it's impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Dry and dead things become earth.

Earth becomes dry and dead things.

If you made it through that passage without zoning out, go ahead and feel superior to me. You deserve it.

Bonus Factor: Tea

Tea holds a sacred place in this story, and the art of its preparation and enjoyment was my favorite aspect of the novel. Also, all that tea drinking made me thirsty. (Well, that and the whole lack of water thing.)

Anti-Bonus Factor: Wink Abuse

I'm not referring to a character who kept Lucille Bluthing it up but rather, the book itself. When Noria and Sanja are rifling through old trash in the dump, they keep finding things from the past that are complete mysteries to them, even though the identity of the items (VHS tape, CDs) are obvious to the reader. Each time, I felt like the book was elbowing me in the ribs, saying, "Get it? GET IT?!!" YEAH I GOT IT.

Side note: The CDs contain recordings captured some time between our present and Noria's future. Um, WHO STILL RECORDS STUFF ON CDs?

Casting Call:

Elle Fanning as Noria

Relationship Status: Perfectly Nice First Date

This book is intelligent and thoughtful, and its perspective is certainly unique, although I admit that my eyes glazed over during some parts of our conversation. We had a pleasant time together, but the sparks, they just weren't flying, and if this book asks me out again, I will politely but firmly decline.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Harper Voyager. I received neither cocktails nor money for this review. Memory of Water is available now.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).