Review: The Blue Notebook


Over the next few months I’m sure there will be a lot of talk about The Blue Notebook. A haunting must read, beautifully written.

Dr. James Levine is a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, a world renowned scientist, doctor, and researcher. He several outstanding articles published focusing on exercise and obesity.

Below is an excerpt from the first page of the novel, a letter from the publisher:

It all began, Jim Levine told me, when, as part of his research for the Mayo Clinic, he was interviewing homeless kids on a famous street of prostitution in Mumbai… a young woman writing a notebook outside of her cage caught his attention, and he interviewed her at length. The powerful image of a young prostitute engaged in the act of writing haunted him.
Last week I watched Slumdog Millionaire and was able to visualize the living conditions Batuk is endures in the novel. This is the story of a fifteen year old girl whose father sells her into sexually slavery at the young age of nine. At the story progresses, we read memories of her short life at home before being sold into prostitution. It’s hard to turn the pages as you read Batuk’s tell her story of making sweet-cake and living in a nest.

This story is so well written and is haunting to the core. You can read this book in one sitting, it's not filled with crude details (like a few other books I have read) - Read it!

This review posted on BN.COM is an amazing summary of the book:

It is obvious that she is a bright, funny and imaginative child who if she had been allowed, would have had a very different trajectory than the one we find her inhabiting at the start of the story. But for reasons best known to her parents, they sell her off to a life that is unfathomably cruel and brutal. She is initiated into her new status after being raped by one of the "uncles" who wins the bidding war on her virginity. From here on, she is taken to a brothel where she sleeps with a minimum of ten men a day. In this life of abuse, she has one close friend, Puneet, a boy who is considered a favorite of the madam as the customers can't seem to get enough of him. Batuk takes up writing in her notebook as a way to escape the life that she is forced to inhabit. She is an astute observer of her life and the situations around her. She also surprisingly manages to retain her sense of humor and display a resilience that is hard to fathom. Words are the only outlet from the tragedy and unending violence of her life and they are her friends when all else fails.

I will warn that this book will definitely be very hard to take for most people. None of the brutalities that Batuk suffers are glossed over but instead they are relayed in specific and excruciating detail. It is very hard to imagine this kind of treatment being meted out to anyone but worse still to a child. The idea for this book was conceived of when the author, Dr. James Levin, was in India doing research and happened upon a girl in a brothel who was writing in a book. He spoke to her about her experiences and that encounter inspired this work. His writing is stunning in part because of the subject matter but also because he is a first time writer who has managed to produce an amazing story. A poetic and poignant tale that shines a light on what is a sad reality for many children.
BWAV rating of this book: 5 stars
Type: Fiction, 224 pages, Hardcover

Synopsis:A haunting yet astonishingly hopeful story of a young Indian prostitute who uses writing and imagination to transcend her reality.

An unforgettable, deeply affecting tribute to the powers of imagination and the resilience of childhood, The Blue Notebook tells the story of Batuk, a precocious 15-year-old girl from rural India who was sold into sexual slavery by her father when she was nine. As she navigates the grim realities of the Common Street—a street of prostitution in Mumbai where children are kept in cages as they wait for customers to pay for sex—Batuk manages to put pen to paper, recording her private thoughts and stories in a diary. The novel is powerfully told in Batuk’s voice, through the words she writes in her journal, where she finds hope and beauty in the bleakest circumstances.

Beautifully crafted and deeply human, The Blue Notebook explores how people, in the most difficult of situations, can use storytelling to make sense of and give meaning to their lives. All of the U.S. proceeds from this novel will be donated to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children (http://www.icmec.org).

3 comments

  1. Although the subject matter was difficult to read it was written in such a non-crude/confrontive way that you were left wanting to know and understand more about how something so inhumane happens in the world.

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  2. After reading so many reviews about this, i need to read it now! LOL!!
    Nice blog you have :0)
    Natalie

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  3. Very moving novel - one that will stick with me for a long time. You can't help but love the main character Batuk. I recently read that the proceeds from the sale of this book are to be donated to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children. What a positive way to make an impact!

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