Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

I love finding books where fiction and tea meet. A reader recently recommended this one so I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle. Memory of Water is a dystopian tale that focuses on a young girl who is studying to become a tea master. Elements are definitely drawn from Chanoyu but the author doesn't make many specific cultural references. I enjoyed that aspect because the reader's imagination is free to construct whatever they chose. My own past experiences biased me a bit in that respect. I couldn't help but think of the traditional tea houses and rituals of Japan. Interestingly, the tea ceremony depicted uses whole leaf green tea rather than matcha.

In the future world, water has become a precious resource that is carefully protected by tea masters. I was struck by the simple honestly and truth of that sentiment. Although our current situation is not as dire as depicted in the book, the world's water supply is certainly at risk from a variety of calamities. Tea is mostly water so this is an issue that we really should be concerned about. I found myself realizing that I take for granted the fact that I can fill up my kettle from the faucet without a second though.

Itäranta's language is flowery and descriptive, almost to a fault. There is a lot of focus on small scene setting details but the reader is often left in the dark when it comes to major occurrences. Although it is a novel in length, it reads a bit more like a short story. This would be my only criticism of this book. If you can get past that aspect, it is a very enjoyable read.

You can find out more about this book here.