The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna
The Lost Girl is Sangu Mandanna’s debut novel. It is a story about Amarra’s echo who comes to be known as Eva. Echoes are created by the Weavers in London as replacements for a person if/when they die. They are created for families who cannot bear to lose a loved one. Echoes look like these people, their ‘other’. They grow up learning and practicing to be them; ready to replace them at any moment.
|The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna|
Eva, Amarra’s echo, is fifteen and lives in England. Her life is surrounded by a few people who are all employed by the Weavers. When the time comes for Eva to replace Amarra, her other, she’ll have to say goodbye to everyone in her life including her foster mother and her teenaged guardian, Sean. Her own independent life doesn’t count.
It’s interesting that echoes are a copy but it is the ‘original’ that is referred to in the novel as the ‘other’. Often, it would be the echo that would be referred to in this way, particularly if they are treated as ‘others’. In The Lost Girl, echoes are treated as others. They do not have their own names, they do not have their own independent lives. They have been created with the sole purpose of filling a gap if and when it arises.
Are they even people? Some people don’t think so and see them as a travesty. There are hunters who track them down and kill them. There are sleep orders. The family, the ‘other’ and the Weavers can sign a sleep order that kills the echo. And in India, where Amarra lives, echoes are illegal.
The whole premise of this novel appealed to me before I started reading the book. It brought to mind novels like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go so I expected it to be right up my street. On reading the first page, the character of Eva reminded me immediately of Sonmi-451 in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Sonmi-451 is a clone who serves in a diner and is one literary character who has made a lasting impression on me. I was quickly drawn to Eva in The Lost Girl.
Stylistically, this novel is nothing like Cloud Atlas, Never Let Me Go or even any other sci-fi novels that I’ve read. The tone of The Lost Girl is soft and gentle and the story has a comforting mothering feel even when the plot is harsh and life threatening. It brought to mind Sufiya Ahmed’s Secrets of the Henna Girl and Sita Brahmachari’s Artichoke Hearts series. Perhaps this also has something to do with the south Asian cultural influences and locations in these novels?
This is a lovely read for a teen audience. I would especially recommend it to young teens who want to start exploring speculative science fiction themes of ‘genetics’ or ‘reproduction’. As with many other novels that explore these issues, a lot of romantic love elements are central for this plot’s thematic exploration of identity and being.
Publication details: Definitions (Random House), 3 January 2013, paperback
This copy: received from the publisher
This novel counts towards M’s Debut Author Challenge 2013.