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The Blue Notebook: A Novel [Paperback]

James A. Levine
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 6 2010
An unforgettable, deeply affecting debut novel, The Blue Notebook tells the story of Batuk, a precocious fifteen-year-old girl from rural India who is sold into sexual slavery by her father. As she navigates the grim realities of Mumbai’s Common Street, Batuk manages to put pen to paper, recording her private thoughts and writing fantastic tales that help her transcend her daily existence. Beautifully crafted, surprisingly hopeful, and filled with both tragedy and humor, The Blue Notebook shows how even in the most difficult situations, people use storytelling to make sense of and give meaning to their lives.

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Praise for The Blue Notebook

The Blue Notebook is a deeply moving story and a searing reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. It is a tribute to how writing can give meaning and help one transcend even the most harrowing circumstances. The voice of Batuk, the unforgettable child prostitute heroine, will stay with the reader a long, long time.”—Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns

“James A. Levine's The Blue Notebook tugged at my heart and opened my eyes. Levine's fictional protagonist, Batuk, stands shoulder to shoulder with the iconic Anne Frank, another brave young girl whose innocence was annihilated but whose spirit prevailed and whose gift to the world was the written testimony she left behind. To read The Blue Notebook is to bear witness, something we must do if we are to create a world that rejects the exploitation of children and creates a world where they can be safe.” —Wally Lamb, author of The Hour I First Believed

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

James A. Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, is a world-renowned scientist, doctor, and researcher. He lives in Oronoco, Minnesota.

From the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE EVILS OF CHILD PROSTITUTION! March 25 2012
By Janet Babins TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
James A. Levine is a Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, a world renowned Scientist, Doctor and Researcher. When in India, investigating child labor, he walked down the famed Street of Cages in Mumbai. This is one of the central areas for the estimated half-million child prostitutes. Before leaving the street, he saw a fifteen year old girl, wearing a pink sari, writing in a Blue Notebook. The image of the girl in the pink sari haunted him so that he was compelled to write The Blue Notebook. This book is a novel.

In order to pay off family debts, Batuk's father brings her to Mumbai, India and sells her to Master Gahil, a sex trader. He, in turn, sells Batuk to the highest bidder looking for a young virgin. She is only nine years old at the time. Master Gahil then sends her to "The Orphanage." When she is fifteen years old, she is put to work as a prostitute on the Common Street in Mumbai. She is selling "sweet-cake", another term for sexual intercourse. Her boss is a hardened old hag by the name of Mamaki Briila. She is called Hippopotamus by the prostitutes. Batuk is a part of a group of five girls and one boy named Puneet, who becomes her best friend. She ends up in a cage, the size of a toilet servicing about ten men a day in exchange for food and a bed. Batuk's life consists of rape, violence and starvation. She is abused in every unimaginable way. Her best friend Puneet was violently raped by two Police Officers, which left him unable to work. When his health improves, he is forced back to work. Puneet is then sent away to be castrated before reaching puberty. When Puneet returns he is quite depressed. Batuk decides to write a fantasy story especially for him to cheer him up.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommend! Aug. 4 2009
By Myckyee
There are some books that I just can't wait to read. I'm excited about them and I know I'm going to love them just for their pure entertainment value. The Blue Notebook is not one of those books, though since it was hugely enlightening I am very glad I read it.

The story follows a 15 year-old prostitute in Mumbai who finds a pencil and begins writing the story of her life. Batuk manages to find a level of comfort through writing her thoughts and experiences as she goes about her work. Her life changes when the emissary for a wealthy businessman negotiates for her services. She records everything she goes through.

This book is beautifully written and heart-piercingly difficult to read. I found myself reading a few pages ahead looking for assurance that the protagonist would come out of the latest incident without too much trauma. This practice is perhaps a form of denial - bad things only happen to bad people and in the end only good happens to the innocent.

Child prostitution is a way of life for many children around the world. I know that. But reading about one child's story brings the issue to the fore of my consciousness and that makes the problem all the more real and vivid for me. I'm glad I read this book but don't know what I can contribute to the problem other than being aware that it exists. On the back of the book it says:

All of the U.S proceeds from this novel will be donated to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children [...].

So, I suppose buying the book contributes a very small amount to a very worthwhile cause. Still it is definitely worth it. I highly recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of those books you don't forget Dec 28 2010
My heart bled while reading this book. Unbelievable that a male author can become a 15 year old prostitute from the slums of mumbai. Wrote in a gut wrenching matter of fact way, you can feel how the character needed to be detached emotionally in order to depict all that had happened to her. The writer made us believe such a character exists and I expected to read at the end what eventually happened to Batuk, but one can only assume after reading the last few pages. This book is not for the weak of heart and seems to depict the harsh realities of poverty stricken families who sometimes have no choice. The harshness of life for orphans and children sold into prostitution at very early ages makes us be so thankful for what we have and at the same time, I felt very helpless when i finished. So much happens to the innocent that we don't have control over. THis is a definite must read and it kept me rivoted until the very end. I'll never forget the character "Batuk" and days after reading the book, still think about her.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heart Wrenching and Real Aug. 7 2009
By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Reason for Reading: Honestly, I simply felt compelled to read this, even though it's not my usual type of reading. I do however enjoy books written in diary format, books with an Indian viewpoint and books written from a child's point of view.

Comments: This is a heart wrenching book to read. Set in modern India, the story of a nine-year-old girl who is sold by her loving father into prostitution (to pay off his debts) and her presented to us in the first person through her diaries. We are given her story from her present timeline at the age of fifteen as well as from her past as she tells how she came to be in her present circumstances, until past meets present and we only can go forward with her.

This book is going to be a hard read for some people. A child prostitute leads a brutal life and the author leaves no stone unturned nor holds back on any details. Yet, Batuk, the main character, is many things. She is a victim, she is a part of her world, she is a survivor, she is an innocent child, she can be devious, she can experience pure child-like joy and she experiences terror no child should ever have. She is a character that the reader feels both great outrage and compassion for and also admires for her own strength and spirit.

One thing that really struck me as I read was how amazingly real the voice of the fifteen-year-old girl is, while realizing that the book is written by a man. For a man to project this teen's feminine multi-layered personality so beautifully is a sign of a brilliant author. I look forward to his next novel.

The only thing that disappoints me some is the ambiguous ending. The only thing that stops me from giving a 5* rating. We are left to sort things out for ourselves and decide what happened.
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