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The Blue Notebook

July 8, 2009

The Blue Notebook: A NovelThe Blue Notebook by James A. Levine is the story of fifteen year old Batuk, a young girl sold into prostitution by her family at the age of nine. Told from Batuk’s point of view, she tells us about her young childhood in a remote Indian village, how she learns to read while hospitalized with TB and then her transformation from naive little girl to the sexual slave she is forced to become:

I became transformed as I lay on that bed, which was the most luxurious I had ever felt. When clay dries in an oven, it is changed from a soft malleable form to a solid, defined one; once baked, the hardened clay can never be molded again, only broken. A few hours earlier I had entered Gahil’s house as a soft glob of warm clay. I would leave there a hardened, useful vessel.

I’ve sure you’ve seen a lot of reviews floating around about The Blue Notebook. I read this book practically in one sitting, entranced and disturbed by the brutality that young Batuk has to face. One of the only things keeping her alive is her notebook in which she writes all of her innermost feelings. Beautifully written, The Blue Notebook takes us deep into the recesses of Batuk’s mind, where she tries to reconcile what is happening to her. The hardest to read, but one of the most beautifully written pages in the book, was the moment when Batuk looks for a place within herself that is untouched by the horrors surrounding her:

There is plenty of room for all the words in the world to live in me; they are welcome here. He may have taken my light and extinguished it, but now within me can hide an army of whispering syllables, rhythms, and sounds. All you may see is a black cavity that fills a tiny girl, but trust me, the words are there, alive and fine.

The Blue Notebook gives you a glimpse into the brutal world of child prostitution. It is also a testament to the written word and it’s power to transport us from our everyday troubles to a safe haven. When describing the cage in which she services men, her vivid imagination paints a beautiful picture of her surroundings (full of sunshine, lush cushions, encased in gold) which we know is not her reality:

No! I am not deranged. I do not believe for a second that I lie each day in a nest of gold with attendants and creamy foods. My cell, with its steel bars, is the size of a toilet. That is my home. I wait for the gray concrete night to become day – not that it matters a speck, for the walls never change. The dirt slowly accumulates with each entrant.  

Inspired by a trip taken to India, the author (a doctor at the Mayo Clinic)  interviewed a young prostitute in Mumbai who was writing in a notebook. I would highly recommend this book, although caution that it is an uncomfortable read.

The Blue Notebook is on sale now and ALL proceeds from the novel will be donated to the International and National Centers from Missing and Exploited Children.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2009 8:54 am

    This book sounds like quite an intense read and I will most definitely put it on my list of books to buy. Your post was great and it really demonstrated how important it is to read books that may make the reader uncomfortable, because it is these types of books that provide a picture/voice/idea of the types of brutalities/hardships being endured around the world. Thanks for the post and making me aware of this book.

  2. July 8, 2009 10:05 am

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book. It’s in my pile, and I’ll be reading it soon. Sounds powerful and disturbing, but worth the read. Thanks for the review!


  3. July 8, 2009 11:38 am

    I have this one on my Books on Deck Pile. It’s an ER book, and I need to get crackin’ on it!

    I know that child prostitution is unfortunately a thriving industry in India and southeast Asia. Sometimes the parents know what they are doing, but more often than not, they’re tricked by an outsider who comes to their village offering to provide their child with schooling in the big city. It makes you wanna weep for the kids and the mom who thought she was doing a good thing for her child.

    • Sue permalink
      August 26, 2009 1:17 pm

      I went to a book signing by James Levine in MN after hearing an interview on MN Public Radio. His story of inspiration to write this novel is as captivating as the novel itself. It stays with me. He describes the novel as her voice and promotes the book as if it is not his book but girls from whom he got the notebook. He also discussed the industry of child prostitution as an international problem, stating statistics from the CDC that there are 250,000 children in the US trapped in this industry. I pray this novel will be read and people will be motivated to do what they can to help free these children around the globe.

  4. July 8, 2009 12:12 pm

    I hope to read this soon. I know I need to read it, but frankly, I’ve been putting it off because I know it won’t be easy to read.

  5. July 8, 2009 12:29 pm

    Oooh, scary sounding but interesting and an eye-opener.

  6. July 8, 2009 12:35 pm

    I read this a few months ago and it has stayed with me. It’s so heartbreaking and powerful. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  7. July 8, 2009 12:36 pm

    Well, enjoyed it as well as you can enjoy a book like this. 😉 I feel so weird saying I enjoyed reading this book, but in the end I did. Not in the way I USUALLY enjoy books…oh heck, do you know what I mean??

  8. July 8, 2009 12:45 pm

    Sounds like a compelling read. I’ll add it to my list. I’m hooked on Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series right now. Michael and I started watching Legend of the Seeker last fall, and once I learned that the TV show was based on the books I had to check them out. I have come to love the characters!

    I am also eagerly awaiting the next book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, which is going to be released in September. And I want to read the latest from the author who wrote Molokai. His new one is called Honolulu.

    So many books. So little time!

  9. July 8, 2009 1:17 pm

    I don’t think I can read this one. Especially if the writing is so well done.

  10. July 8, 2009 2:30 pm

    Boy, this one is everywhere and the message is always the same–difficult to read but should be read. Going to have to find the right time to make myself read it.

  11. July 8, 2009 4:41 pm

    Stephanie I am in total agreement with your review!! I felt the same way- a tough read, but very powerful and well worth it.

  12. July 8, 2009 7:01 pm

    This one is definatley going in my TBR pile, I need to get my hands on a copy. Great review Stephanie!

  13. July 8, 2009 8:21 pm

    I happened across an ARC of this one at my library and I’m a little afraid of it, but I still want to read it someday (or, obviously, I wouldn’t have brought it home). How cool about the proceeds going to such a great cause.

  14. July 8, 2009 8:54 pm

    This book is already on my “must read” list.

    Thanks for the review 🙂

  15. July 9, 2009 12:28 am

    Great review, Stephanie! I do have this one on my stacks but just haven’t worked myself up to read it. It sounds like a moving story even if it is hard to read.

  16. July 9, 2009 9:20 am

    I’ve had this on my TBR for a long time. I keep passing it by because I know it will difficult to read. Excellent review and I really need to read it myself.

  17. July 9, 2009 8:54 pm

    Thanks so much for this review. You really have a lot of touching words for such a difficult subject, yet one that is important for us to be aware of. I am putting this on my list to read!

  18. July 10, 2009 10:02 pm

    I just recently read this, too! I haven’t reviewed it yet, but I thought it was a very important book to read! I never know what to say in terms of liking and not liking because the subject matter is rather difficult, so you hate to say you liked it…

  19. July 13, 2009 10:39 am

    This is getting a lot of attention lately. Definitely sounds like something I’d like to read. Sometimes the best books are those that are painful to read, yet touch us deeply.

  20. September 29, 2009 10:31 pm

    I read this book a couple of days ago too. Boy, as you say it is rather intense and disturbing, but I think the most upsetting thing is you know that this must be the reality of life for thousands of girs worldwide.

  21. neha permalink
    January 4, 2010 11:01 am

    i am reading this book rite now. reely painful. u wanny snatch Batuk away from the dirty dark lurky lanes n yet never wanna go there

  22. Roslyn permalink
    June 19, 2011 12:51 pm

    Read the book a while back when it first came out. What attracted me was the young girl on the cover standing next to a huge worn gate with a notebook in her hand. Her expression was priceless. The writing seemed a bit pretentious at times. I felt that it was no way an Indian girl could speak and that type of “flowery” vernacular. but once I got past that, the story was hauntingly beautiful and disgusting, especially towards the end. The ending for me was extremely sad and left with feeling very depressed.
    Overall, ma great read.


  1. The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine « Book Addiction

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