Title: The Blue Notebook
Author: James Levine
Source: Personal library
Set in: Mumbai (India)
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (July 6, 2010)
Rating: 2 out of 5
By now I guess everyone must have heard or read about this book. It’s a story of Batuk from rural India who was sold into sex slavery by her father when she was just 9 years old. The Blue Notebook chronicles her life as a prostitute in Mumbai.
I almost feel bad saying I did not like this book. I found it too dramatic at times. When writing about a topic like this dramatization is something that is least expected. Although it can be explained by saying that Batuk was very melodramatic and it reflects in her writing, there comes a point when it becomes too much. That could be because all the books I’ve read on this topic have been non-fiction and most of time very straightforward. I found it irritating that she referred to ‘sex’ as ‘sweet cake’ for about a million times in the book. Also the depth of her writing is a little too mature for a young girl.
I just felt that as a fictional character Batuk went through all those atrocities for nothing. What was the point of describing all those rape scenes in endless detail? As if the word ‘Rape’ in itself is less disgusting.
The problem about fictional books on harrowing topics like child prostitution is – where do you draw the line? When a fictional book is set in an actual city like Mumbai, there comes a time when you start questioning whether these things actually happen. I felt there were a few details added to make the book more sad, which it already was. Child prostitution is a very important issue where lives of thousands of children are ruined everyday. But I did question a couple of things in the book, like the descriptions of what happened in the Orphanages. I know that a few orphanages are used for prostitution but I find it hard to believe the things described here. When my thinking tilted towards towards ‘Not possible‘ instead of ‘Maybe‘, that’s when I started loosing interest in the book.
The writing was brilliant but at times I felt it was too lame, like the author was trying too hard. All I want to say is that if you want to read about things like child prostitution and be aware of what is happening in the world, it’s much better to read non-fiction books and there are non-fiction books that read like fiction. (case in point-The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam)