The Blue Notebook by James.A.Levine

“The Blue Notebook by James.A.Levine”

The Book:

Batuk lives in a brothel with 4 other girls and Puneet the only male prostitute and her friend. She was just nine when her father travelled with her in a bus from rural India to the big city of Mumbai. While she did find the events and the feasts leading to her travel a little too odd, she didn’t realize till it was too late that she was being sold into sexual slavery. Now, at fifteen, she gets a blue notebook, a pencil and even a sharpener and starts her literary journey providing us with a peek into her traumatic life. The book includes her writings from the blue notebook, from a hotel paper and finally from a plain paper.. based on where she is.

The story weaves between Batuk’s past and present by narrating how her childhood was, her travel with her dad to Mumbai, her first sexual encounter, being the “wife” of an older man, how she learnt to read and write and the current day involving numerous baking sessions with older men.

The View:

When the writing starts it appears as if Batuk is a young girl working in a bakery as she talks about baking classes and making sweet cakes. However as the reader proceeds with the book you understand that making sweet cake is what she has been doing with strange men since the day she becomes a prostitute.
I felt the story lacked a few key explanations. While Batuk states what happens with her every step of the way, you do not get a peek of her emotions or reactions. It is almost like you are there but you can’t get into her. I would have liked to be in touch with her emotionally – agreed that there was a need to focus on the physical abuse she was going through, but the complete lack of emotional perspective did not please me. I also did not find enough details on why her parents sold her and what her thoughts were. Was she angry towards her dad or did she just accept it as her fate?
On the bright side, Batuk is portrayed as a young adult switching between being a child and a 15-year-old who has had to grow up a little too fast. Her writing is clear and concise and in many chapters very adult like and thought-provoking (sometimes even crossing the line of being unbelievable). Her child like innocence comes into portrayal when she uses words like “Bunny Rabbit” and the jokes she makes on the “Hippopotamus”.
The story and the writing is disturbing and brutal. There were a couple of times when I had to put the book down as it was a little too strong for me. The brutality that Batuk faces in the sex trade is beyond imagination but I am sure it is very close to reality as it can get.

I am giving it a 3/5. The author has done a fantastic job in shedding light on the life of a child prostitute but I felt the second half of the book was a little too detailed in an almost sadistic manner. A mellowed down narration of the events and a greater insight into her emotions would have done wonders. I have to mention here that all proceeds from the American sales of this book will be donated to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children. Their website is at http://icmec.org and I have to thank the author again for the awareness launch.

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4 Responses

  1. Kavyen,

    I tried emailing you a couple of times, but haven’t heard from you. You won the book, The Swimming Pool on my site and I need your address. If I don’t hear from you soon, I’ll have to pick another winner. Email me your info if you’re still interested!

  2. Sounds like an interesting book! 🙂

  3. Yes Kelly, it definitely is…

  4. I love how you review 🙂

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