Sunday, May 31, 2009

79 - The Blue Notebook; James Levine

I was thrilled to receive an advance reader copy of the The Blue Notebook: A Novel; by James A Levine from Random House recently. Scheduled for a July 7, 2009 release, this horrific, fictionalized story about exploited children, one young girl in particular, was a difficult read but beautifully written.

In this story fifteen year old Batuk who lives in rural India, is sold into sexually slavery by her father at the age of nine. Batuk is a bright young girl who knows how to read and write. A nurse at a mission hospital taught her how to read and write when she was there having been stricken with TB. Through Batuk’s first person narration the reader learns the painful story of her past and present, being forced to work as a prostitute.

Butuk expresses her thoughts (rarely her emotions) about the last six years of her life using a “blue notebook”, pencil and pen, which she hides in a slit in her mattress in the cell that she calls her “nest”. There she lives with four other exploited children who are kept under tight reigns.

Why did her father who seemed to care about her, sell her? We never really learn the reason, but one can only assume it was monetary. Yet her family had a farewell feast for her prior to her father driving her from the village to face her horrible future in Mumbai. It is also unclear where the “blue notebook” came from.

The story is told over a period of six years. The rapes, and beating were very hard to read about, and I also found it disgusting when I learned about how even babies in India were exploited. Babies are valued for a black market beggar network, as a beggar with a baby earns five times as much as a baby-less beggar; deformed children earn even more. Despite the atrocities described in this book, I found myself unable to put it down and read it in one sitting today. As painful as this book may be for some people, it is an important story. It was very well written, and is highly recommended.

Although the story is fiction, the author James Levine, a doctor, as part of his medical research began interviewing homeless children in Mumbai where child prostitutes were often forced to work. One of these young women surprisingly was writing in a notebook, and this act which seemed so out of place inspired Levine to write this story.

Mr. Levine is donating all of the U.S. proceeds from this novel to the National and International Centers for Missing and Exploited Children.


RATING - 5/5 - Completed - 5/31/09

Where From: My Stacks


  1. I can't wait to get to this one. I have several in front of it, so it's going to have to wait. :( Hooray for "highly recommend."

  2. Sounds really good. I love it when an ARC is that good - I'll keep an eye out for it.

  3. I'm looking forward to reading The Blue Notebook. It looks so awesome!

  4. I've got this book also. I'm very pleased to see you rated it a 5. I can't wait to read it.

  5. I've seen several favorable reviews on this book so far and I can't wait to read it. I'll have to try and find at library.

  6. Glad to hear you loved this one. I think I am taking it with me on vacation later this month.

  7. I have read quite a few reviews of this book, and they all make me eager to get to it. I am preparing myself for an achingly sad yet interesting read.

  8. I just read about this book and I think it sounds mega-interesting. I am glad you enjoyed it.

  9. I just completed my post on this book-I greatly enjoyed your insightful comments and I have linked to your post in mine

  10. I am here from Mel's blog. Great review, Diane. It is good to know that the author is doing something to help exploited children.


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