Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Blue Notebook - James Levine

The Blue Notebook centres around Batuk, a 15 year old prostitute in Mumbai. Given up by her impoverished familty, her virginity is sold to the highest bidder and she is then turned over to work out of a small cell on Common Street. Having been hospitalised as a child in a missionary hospital, Batuk knows how to read and write. She begins to write her thoughts and observations in a blue exercise book with a pencil stub obtained from one of her patrons.

Batuk's imagination and acceptance of her world is simply remarkable. Every horrible graphic detail is recorded without emotion. Instead it is her memories of her father, family and childhood that elicit emotion from Batuk and protect her from the degrading and horrible world in which she lives.

James Levine is a respected doctor at the prestigious Mayo Clinic, but he draws from his personal research to write this harrowing and disturbing book. How does a middle-aged american male put himself into the mind of a poor, teenaged Indian prostitute? According to the promotional material accompanying the book

"interviewing homeless kids on a famous street of prostitution in Mumbai known as the Street of Cages. A young woman writing in a notebook outside of her cage caught his attention, and he interviewed her at length. The powerful image of a young prostitute engaged in the act of writing haunted him"

I think that the character of Batuk is designed to be somewhat emotionless - it is the actions and atrocities that she suffers that will stick in your mind long after you read the book. The awful acts that humans are capable of inflicting upon someone they consider beneath them are nothing new, but still shock. The author is donating all proceeds from the U.S. sales of this book to International and National Centres for Missing and Exploited Children - highly appropriate.

On an aside note, I highly liked the shade of blue used in the cover artwork - but was disappointed to see the book listed with a yellow cover on

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