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Mandanna draws heavily from Frankenstein–itself a powerfully feminist novel, the Ur example of a science fiction novel, written by a woman–but her novel, despite heavy references to its spiritual predecessor, is a creature entirely unto itself.
Eva is a creation of the shadowy and mysterious Weavers, a copy of the beloved only daughter of a family half a world away, a safeguard against her “original’s” death. Her job is to be Amarra, the original, should anything happen to her. What Amarra likes, she must like. Who Amarra loves, she must love. From birth, her choices have been made for her.
Still, in England, under the care of various tutors, Eva enjoys a certain amount of freedom, even though her very existence is illegal. She is viewed as subhuman, a soulless aberration that many factions in her country and around the world want eradicated. As long as she keeps a low profile, she can be herself.
Tragedy strikes, however, and Eva is forced to go to India and assume Amarra’s life. She is thrust into the role of daughter, sister, friend, and mysteriously, girlfriend. Despite the many mundane details Amarra has been forced to correspond to Eva, she has kept secret her boyfriend, Ray, her first and only love. Amarra resented Eva in life, and disliked the idea of her life being absorbed by another. Even in death, Amarra’s hatred and resentment have far reaching consequences. She wants Eva destroyed, and since Eva isn’t legally a person, killing her isn’t a crime.
It’s timely that a novel that questions the nature of life, existence, and bodily autonomy has a young woman as its protagonist. Women in general live a life similar to Eva’s in the beginning of The Lost Girl. Existing as female while in a modern society has a lot of ways to avoid catching unwanted attention: dress a certain way, only go places in groups, don’t put your drink down, etc. If you follow these prescriptions, you can go about more or less with a measure of independence.
The problem is the socially sanctioned Amarras of the world, the people who are given legal right to dictate our roles to us, decide who we will be, and assume authority over our very existence. The novel makes it clear that Eva is greater than the role that has been prescribed for her. Hopefully, readers will realize the same applies to the real world.