Jun 28, 2011

The Blue Notebook - Review

By: Alisha Sethi

‘The Blue Notebook’
By: James A. Levine
206 pp, Orion Books Ltd. Rs.695.
Ages 16 and up.

So you’re in a bookstore browsing through the shelves and all of a sudden you come across a book called ‘The Blue Notebook’. You start to read the synopsis at the back of the book and find out that it’s a journal of a prostitute. Now you can have two kinds of reactions to this. You can either be the kind of person who puts the book back, shaking their head in disapproval at the author’s audacity to write about such a disgraceful topic or you can be the kind of person who goes to themself, “Hey, this could be kind of interesting to read”. If you’re the latter type of person, well then thumbs up to you. You have made a good GOOD choice.

The Blue Notebook is the journal of a teenage prostitute in India called Batuk. The character of Batuk is based on a girl James Levine saw standing outside her “cage” on the Street of Cagues in Bombay, writing in a blue notebook and the image of a literate prostitute gave birth to this novel. Batuk learnt how to read and write while she was still in her village being treated for Tuberculosis; a kind nurse saw her potential and arranged for a teacher to come everyday. Sold into sexual slavery at the age of nine, Batuk firmly believes that she has been blessed with ‘beauty and a pencil’. Her journal is her salvation and her pencil is a way of recording all of fates ugly little twists.  Her journal never lapses into self pity for naïve Batuk has not seen the world outside her ‘nest’ on the Common Street of Mumbai. For her, life just consisted of following Mamaki Brillia and Master Gahil’s ( owners of the brothel) orders on which men and how many to ‘bake sweetcake with’. Sweetcake can be considered and unusual way of describing the activity through which prostitutes earn their bread and butter but as Batuk points out ‘such is the whim of a dramatic soul’.

For six years her life remained the same but then it takes a turn for the worse. Her beauty and pencil become a curse instead of a blessing and lead her straight into the strangling arms of pain. A pain that no fifteen year old girl could ever imagine waiting for her.

Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner has commended Dr.Levine on his masterpiece by calling it a ‘searing reminder of the resilience of human spirit’. Starkly compelling, this book has all the features of an unputdownable book. It inspires and haunts readers in equal measure and I strongly urge you to plunge yourself into this pool of optimism and innocence created by Batuk in the face of unbelievable cruelty. 


Najia Navaid said...

I like the opening :)

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