The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna, published byDefinitions on 3rd January 2013
Eva’s life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination – an echo. Made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, she is expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her ‘other’, if she ever died. Eva studies what Amarra does, what she eats, what it’s like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.
But fifteen years of studying never prepared her for this.
Now she must abandon everything she’s ever known – the guardians who raised her, the boy she’s forbidden to love – to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.
Sometimes you come across books which you know very little about but which end up blowing you away. 'The Lost Girl' is one of those books. It absorbed me completely from the moment I started reading to the moment I turned the final page. I didn't want the story to end as I became immersed in Eva's world and her fight for a life of her own.
Inspiration for the story comes from one of my favourite classic novels, 'Frankenstein'. I have always been fascinated by the idea of creating new life and the theme of nature/nurture and this is something which Sangu Mandanna takes time to explore. Elements of Mary Shelley's story are entwined in the book but this is not designed to be a new version of the original, instead it uses it as a jumping off point for the creation of something entirely unique.
Mandanna's world building is incredible. I was impressed with the depth of detail which is used to describe the world of the loom and the work of the weavers, who create Echos - replicas of people for those families who can't bear the thought of losing their loved ones through accidental death or illness. Of course, the ethics of this is questioned but you can't fail to feel real sympathy for those families who only wish not to be parted from their children or spouses.
I enjoyed the way in which the book challenged me to consider more deeply ideas about life and death. The main character Eva fights hard for her life. She values it and treats it as something precious which needs to be protected. She also strives for independence. Although she has been created as an Echo of an Indian girl called Amarra, she desperately wants to be her own person rather than a replica of someone else.
There is a romantic element to the story too but I liked the fact that this was secondary to the main plot and never overwhelmed the direction of the book. Eva has a close relationship with one of her Guardians, Sean and I enjoyed the scenes they shared together, as well as the final outcome between them but I'm glad that this didn't take the focus off of Eva's personal journey.
Beautifully written, this was a compulsive read which I loved. I have yet to discover if there is a sequel planned or if this is a stand-alone novel but either way, I am excited to read more of Sangu Mandanna's work in the future.