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on March 21, 2015
This story of a young Indian prostitute who finds herself through her writing is heart-wrenching and suspenseful.
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on October 11, 2013
good condition
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 25, 2012
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.

When Batuk was younger she was very sick with TB and was brought to the Missionary's Medical Center. It was there that she befriended a nurse named Hita, who taught her how to read and write. In order to survive this horrific life, she distracts herself by keeping a diary of her story and her private thoughts in a Blue Notebook. "I like to put things on paper. I like to see my thoughts because otherwise they are invisible." She also writes "I am not sure why I write but in my mind I shudder that it may be so that one day I can look back and read how I have melted into my ink and become nothing."

The ending of this novel is surprising. This is not an easy book to read. In fact, it is disturbing and very graphic.

It is a very well written book. It's an eye-opener and an unforgettable story. This book merits FIVE STARS.

Joseph A. Levine's purpose for writing The Blue Notebook is to raise awareness and funds to stop child exploitation. All the proceeds from this novel will be donated to the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
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on April 11, 2011
What an incredible story of some of the harsh realities in life. This is a beautifully written book that brings tears to ones eyes when one reads about the cruelty that a human being can be put through by other humans. Batuk is an amazing character with a feisty spirit coping in such brutal conditions. The book is sad and uplifting at the same time. A definite must read!
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on December 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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on September 29, 2010
The Blue Notebook is almost too emotionally shattering to be called a novel. It reads very much like my research on trafficking and pornography rings. If it was my choice, this would be a compulsory read for all adults.
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on September 6, 2009
The Blue Notebook by James Levine is told in the point of view of Batuk, a young girl who has been sold into prostitution by her father. From then on, she works through several places, including the streets of Mumbai, then being bought from place to place where her final place ends up being in some sort of hotel.

It's a hard read. Although being only two hundred pages, it is an account in extreme graphic detail of Batuk's life after being sold by her father. She does not skimp away the grisly details that happens to her and how she is meant to please her clients. The only light hearted moments I get are when she shares a laugh with her friend Puneet and how they make fun of the "Hippopotamus". I thought they were so cute together but, even that little bit of happiness fades as Batuk is passed on to another place to do her work.

My heart went out for Batuk. You see her innocence shatter and how she narrates the entire story you don't hear much emotion, it's almost as you can hear a flat voice through the diary entries. It's a bleak and depressing read but it probably is a very realistic account of what happens out there to child prostitutes anywhere in the world.

There are only a few things I didn't agree with in this book. I'm not for flowery poetry writing and mini stories and there's a few parts of that in this story. I mostly skipped it by as I didn't have much patience for that. I don't really understand how you can be that literate when you've only learned to read and write at a missionary hospital but that's just my opinion. Second, the ending was very vague. However, if you really think about it, no one in this world really cares where a prostitute ends up, therefore the ending shouldn't matter. It's very shocking, but it's sadly true however, I would have liked to know where Batuk ended up. Also note, due to the graphic nature and content this is not for the squeamish. It didn't bother me much, but there were parts where I cringed.

Overall a very sad and in depth look into the life of a child slave. It'll make you feel for the millions of child slaves and helpless women out there suffering where they have no control over their lives and sadly, no where to turn to.
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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. It ends in such a way that one can assume that it ended a certain way but if your not happy with that there is plenty of ambiguity to perceive your own ending. I prefer my books to tell me how it ends.

There is a lot of graphic s*xual detail, though none of it is gratuitous. It is necessary for such a story to show what really goes on in this world. This is a book that will open your eyes to something that you may not wish to have opened to you but how can you *not* go on without knowing these truths about your world.
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on August 4, 2009
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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