Monday, 28 July 2014

Book Review: The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

Pros: brilliant characterization, thought provoking premise, heart-wrenching circumstances

Cons: ending didn’t quite work for me

Amarra is an echo, woven by the Loom as a replacement in the event that her original dies.  She lives according to a series of rules, which require her to learn her original’s life, wearing the same clothes, reading the same books and having similar experiences.  In some countries, including India where her original lives, her existence is illegal.  When her original does die, Amarra has to subvert her natural rebellion and give up her chosen name of Eva, and try to be a good echo for once, lest her familiars - Amarra’s parents - decide to end her existence.

This book’s biggest strength is with character development.  Amarra/Eva feels so real.  I loved that you get to see numerous points of view on how people feel regarding her status as an echo.  You see her original’s anger at having to share her life with this copy, the echo’s frustration of having nothing of her own, the familiars’ hopes and despairs over whether the real Amarra’s soul has or hasn’t transferred to her ‘spare’ body, and more.  Eva feels horrible lying to people who love Amarra and who deserve to know their friend has died, even as she knows that if they learn the truth, her life will be forfeit.

The story brings up numerous questions, from whether the echoes are human with souls, to what extent a creator has the right to control their creations (the author compares weaving echoes with Frankenstein making his creature), etc.  There’s difficult morality here, with characters all reacting to the situation in realistic - if not always honourable - ways.

When things start to go bad they go really, really bad.  This is NOT a good public transit read.  It would however, make for a fantastic book club book.  There’s a lot of discussion potential here.

On the negative side, it surprised me that her guardians, while making sure she wore the same clothes and ate similar foods, etc. as her original wouldn’t make sure Eva’s language choice is also similar.  She grows up in England and once she gets to India she has to consciously remember to refer to things the Indian way, so calling television ‘TV’ rather then ‘telly’.  Her linguistic choices causes problems and really should have been a consideration in her upbringing.

I also had some issues with the ending.  I didn’t quite believe things would go the way they did.

This is a book that will make you think about life and its value.  It will make you cry.  And while the ending didn’t convince me of its reality, everything else in the book was so honest to how real people act and react in difficult circumstances.  It’s a great book and worth reading.


I followed the ending until the final confrontation in the green room.  I didn’t believe Matthew would make the decision he did considering the time that had passed and how his personality had changed.  It’s clear from the text that he doesn’t feel the same way about Alisha, and even if he did, I couldn’t see him stepping between Adrian and his vengeance.  I could see Matthew helping Eva in a covert manner (as he did when he didn’t tell the seekers where the pair were hiding in London) but I couldn’t see him overtly siding with her over Adrian and his job.

An even bigger question I had was why would they send Eva back to India?  With her school class knowing she’s an echo - something illegal in the country - and a hunter knowing there’s an echo in the area, India’s a terrible place for her at this point.  I’d assumed her running was so she could not only live past her 18th birthday but also so she could be herself - with Sean.  The ending implied that she’s stuck going back to being an echo, pretending to be Amarra again, and following all the rules she wasn’t good at following before.  They also didn’t mention whether they were going to re tag her so she couldn’t run again.

One thing I wish had come up that didn’t, was how Amarra’s parents feel about their other children’s echoes after dealing with Eva.  Having been through the experience once, would they really choose to do it again if one of their other children died? 

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