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The Blue Notebook: A Novel Paperback – July 6, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 135 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Levine, a doctor at the Mayo clinic, was inspired to write this heartbreaking and terrifying novel when he was interviewing homeless children in Mumbai as part of his medical research. In the "Street of Cages" where child prostitutes ply their trade, literally encaged by their neglectful and abusive overseers (who pocket all the profits), Levine was struck by the sight of a young girl sitting outside her cage writing in a notebook. Batuk is a 15 year old girl who was sold to Mamaki Briila by her father when she was 9. Forced to service up to ten men a day from her "nest," and subject to deplorable treatment by the men who pay for her services, she's even abused by the doctor who examines her; her friend Puneet, meanwhile, nearly dies after being sexually assaulted by two policemen and is castrated at the first signs of puberty. Batuk tells her story matter-of-factly, in a voice reminiscent of The Color Purple's. While painful to read, Batuk's story puts a face on the mistreatment and disregard for children worldwide, as well as a testament to the hopefulness and power of literacy. All U.S. proceeds from the book will be donated to helping exploited children.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (July 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385528728
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385528726
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,079,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ladyslott VINE VOICE on June 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What an extraordinary book, one that is unrelentingly graphic in its portrayal of the life of a child prostitute, but beautiful in its depiction of the human spirit and the will to survive.

Batuk Ramasdeen is nine years old when she is sold to a sex trader by her father. Sold to the highest bidder looking for a young virgin she is then brought to an `orphanage' where she becomes trained in her new profession. Batuk lives in a small cage on the Common Street, in Mumbai, India; here she is prostituted on a daily basis in exchange for some food and a place to sleep. Using her imagination and her ability to write, a skill she learned while housed in a missionary hospital, Batuk escapes the horrors of her existence by writing and telling stories. It is here that this book shines, for Batuk's tales are beautifully written and her descriptions of her escape in her mind's eye are lyrical. The author's juxtaposition of such beauty in the midst of unrelenting horror cuts to your heart.

When it seems that Batuk's life may have taken a slight turn for the better, a small flame of hope is ignited in the reader, but our heroine is not so easily fooled. She knows that to most of the people she comes in contact with she is no more than an object to be used; a whore, a bitch, a toy, a dolly, but never a human being. She has no illusions about her existence and knows her only escape will be through her stories, which give her life meaning.

I believe this is the author's debut; I will certainly be looking for another book by him in the future. In many ways the story reminded me of The Kite Runner, a book that opened my eyes to a world that I know so little about. As an added incentive all proceeds for the U.S. sale of this book will be donated to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children, so by reading this phenomenal piece of fiction you will in some small way help these children.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I am always very reluctant to read books written by men, speaking as women. This book, by a white male physician speaking as a tween/teen Indian sex slave, seemed destined for failure as a concept. To the publisher's credit, they got way out in front of that reluctance and implore you to "read it anyway, because it matters." I'm not sure that I ever completely bought the narrator's voice, but it worked well enough that I gobbled through this book in two sittings, even though it will take far longer than that to get it out of my head. The narrator is about the same age as my youngest child, and I think of that 4th grade class, and think of them being subjected, at that age, to the things described in this book....

It's all the more frustrating to read because there is no outrage, no emotion, no self-pity in the book. There is no magical resolution to the ills of the world that brings Batuk to the place she is forced to occupy, and she doesn't wait for or expect one. She suffers, she continues to exist, she survives until she can't. And yet her human value, uniqueness, and undeniable intellect are ever present.

It is a very hard book to let go of, once it is done. After I finished it, I found myself waking up in the middle of the night, turning the last pages over in my head, wanting to write a different ending, wanting to ride in and rescue the character I had grown to like so much. I think that makes it a successful writing endeavor, and I have to applaud the author for taking me there.
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Format: Hardcover
Sometimes when I read a book that is particularly affecting, I refer to it as "life altering." But when I refer to The Blue Notebook as life altering, it isn't to remark of its genius rendition, sumptuous prose, or eerily strong characterization. Simply put; The Blue Notebook by James Levine so thoroughly disturbed me, it left me haunted. I think we all know that the sickening practice of child sex slavery occurs, and we are justifiably disgusted. But only when confronted with the voice of a fifteen year old prostitute as she describes her tragic and hopeless world does one realize this is a global problem that we shouldn't ignore.

Levine's purpose is to raise awareness and funds to stop child exploitation. And his method is the tortuous bombardment of atrocities that are committed against his narrator and other children. Batuk was sold into slavery by her impoverished family at nine. She is quickly "taken" after which she ends up in a cage no larger than a toilet servicing around ten men a day. Her life is colored by sadism, rape, violence, starvation, and disease. She is betrayed in some form by everyone who can use her to some purpose to further their greed or perversion. Abused in everyway imaginable, Batuk considers herself blessed because she can read and write. And so Batuk journals, and uses every opportunity to scratch out her story and observations. "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." These are her hopes to die, disappear, service only one man, or become deranged. It will suffice to say this is not an uplifting tale.

Levine is relentless with horrific details, and increasingly terrible situations in which he places Batuk.
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