Title: The Lost Girl
Author: Sangu Mandanna
Rating: 5 Stars
If I were ever to write a book, this is the book I would want to see my name on. The Lost Girl was not a novel I originally went into expecting to love, but surely enough, it has made its place in my heart and even now, days after putting it down, it hasn't left. Yet, more than that, I don't want it to. With her debut, Sangu Mandanna has created a piece of fiction that transcends all boundaries and explores, not only an unique futuristic society, but also the bonds of friendship, the ties of family, the depth of grief and most of all, what it means to be human.
In all honesty, I can not explain the utter beauty that this book is. The Lost Girl is truly, in every sense of the word, a heart-wrenching tale that will keep you both reaching for the tissue boxes and stunned in horror. Mandanna’s futuristic world is one that is richly developed and filled with cut-throat politics. You see, echoes, or clones, are regarded as monsters in society and many of them are illegal in certain countries, including
India. Yet, this doesn’t stop parents from requesting a carbon-copy of their children in the hopes that their grief will be alleviated through the presence of one who looks exactly like their deceased child. Thus, Weavers, enigmatic scientists who reside in England, create these echoes and while society shuns them, they live their life in perpetual fear of Hunters, people who dedicate their lives to wiping off all the echoes from the face of this planet. In The Lost Girl, however, we see life through the lens of Eva, an echo herself, and we see that she is just another teenage girl. Eva’s narration is filled with poignancy, an inner sorrow, and deep-rooted hope for her future. Throughout the novel, we only become closer and closer to Eva until her feelings are ours and it is impossible to tell where we, as readers, end and she, as a character, begins.
The Lost Girl is truly a character-driven novel, but that does not make it a novel without a brilliant plot-line of its own. Eva has grown up in isolation, studying the life and memories of Amarra, the girl whose face she shares. Thus, when Amarra unexpectedly dies in a car crash, Eva is forced to leave behind the only life – and family – she has ever known and travel to
India, forgoing her true nature and becoming Amarra once and for all. Yet, Eva and Amarra are completely different people and it is Eva’s struggle to remain true to herself and her personality in a world which demands she become someone else that is so moving. Mandanna writes with a skill that is unparalleled and she develops Eva’s character in a subtle, and utterly compelling, manner. We, as the reader, are with Eva every step of the way and cannot help but root for her to eventually find a solution to her dilemma and return home – to her home – England and finally be together with her family and not Amarra’s.
The Lost Girl is split, roughly, into three sections, each of which detail a different part of Eva’s journey, but within the first section itself we are so invested in Eva’s life. We see Eva’s bond with Mina Ma, the mother figure of her life, and are exposed to the beautiful friendship which is just waiting to blossom into something more with her Guardian, Sean, and just as we have given our hearts out to Eva and her little world of happiness, it is snatched away from us. Eva’s life in the second section focuses on her journey in India as she assimilates with Amarra’s family, builds friendships with her siblings, makes friends of her own, and most confusing of all, battles with her emotions concerning Amarra’s boyfriend. Yet, there is no love triangle in this novel as Eva’s heart belongs solely with Sean. Nevertheless, there is a gentle exchange and slow build-up of beautiful friendships and for someone like Eva who has never been seen as a human, who has never attended a school and had friends, her self-realization and growth is astounding.
Eva aside, Sean is one of my favorite aspects of this book. I loved the romance in this story and while it broke my heart, it made me swoon in equal part too. One of the things I admire the most about Mandanna’s writing is that each and every character she introduces us to has their own depth, their own perspective, and she enables us to see that about them. In terms of Sean and Eva, they are perfect and just click. In terms of other characters and their relationships to Eva, we are somehow able to understand them too, despite their convoluted-ness at times. Furthermore, their responses to Amarra’s death and the exploration of grief which Mandanna brings out through them are all written flawlessly. It is difficult to explain, but just know that her writing brought tears to my eyes and there were sections of this novel where I had to constantly dab my eyes just to read the words on the page.
It pains me to admit, but my review for this novel is terrible. I loved this novel with a passion I have shown for very few books such as The Book Thief or anything written by Melina Marchetta, but it is difficult for me to put into words the beauty that this book has. It is written beautifully, it is character-driven, its cast contains depth, and its messages are provocative and sure to stick with you for days – if not years – to come. It is, hands down, the best debut I have had the pleasure of reading this year and is a novel I will, without a doubt, be reading again and again and again. I don’t know if there will be a sequel for this, especially as I am quite content with the open ending of this novel as it is, but if there is one, you can bet I’ll be groveling at Mandanna’s feet to receive an ARC. I really, really loved The Lost Girl. It takes a lot for a book to make me cry and even during The Book Thief or a Marchetta novel, I only cry once or twice. The Lost Girl? I was crying after Part I, during the beginning of Part II, after Part II, and on-and-off again during Part III. It was that type of novel. It is a story that truly makes you feel and it is so rare to read a novel like that these days. Truly, The Lost Girl is a gem in a genre of fiction I had nearly given up on, but just like Eva, Sangu Mandanna gives me hope for a glorious future.
While Mandanna's descriptions of each and every place were spot-on and incredibly authentic, I thought I'd give you all a quick virtual tour of some of my favorite places that Eva visited in Bangalore, so I hope you enjoy this quick virtual tour of India! :)
|Inside View of the Garuda Mall
|Cafe Coffee Day Logo
|Cafe Coffee Day Interior