The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine
Finished: Aug. 6, 2009
First Published: Jul. 7, 2009
Genre: literary fiction
I have a break now.
Reason for Reading: Honestly, I simply felt compelled to read this, even though it's not my usual type of reading. I do however enjoy books written in diary format, books with an Indian viewpoint and books written from a child's point of view. I received a Review Copy from Random House.
Comments: This is a heart wrenching book to read. Set in modern India, the story of a nine-year-old girl who is sold by her loving father into prostitution (to pay off his debts) and is presented to us in the first person through her diaries. We are given her story from her present timeline at the age of fifteen as well as from her past as she tells how she came to be in her present circumstances, until past meets present and we only can go forward with her.
This book is going to be a hard read for some people. A child prostitute leads a brutal life and the author leaves no stone unturned nor holds back on any details. Yet, Batuk, the main character, is many things. She is a victim, she is a part of her world, she is a survivor, she is an innocent child, she can be devious, she can experience pure child-like joy and she experiences terror no child should ever have. She is a character that the reader feels both great outrage and compassion for and also admires for her own strength and spirit.
One thing that really struck me as I read was how amazingly real the voice of the fifteen-year-old girl is, while realizing that the book is written by a man. For a man to project this teen's feminine multi-layered personality so beautifully is a sign of a brilliant author. I look forward to his next novel.
The only thing that disappoints me some is the ambiguous ending. The only thing that stops me from giving a 5* rating. We are left to sort things out for ourselves and decide what happened. It ends in such a way that one can assume that it ended a certain way but if your not happy with that there is plenty of ambiguity to perceive your own ending. I prefer my books to tell me how it ends.
There is a lot of graphic s*xual detail, though none of it is gratuitous. It is necessary for such a story to show what really goes on in this world. This is a book that will open your eyes to something that you may not wish to have opened to you but how can you *not* go on without knowing these truths about your world.
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