Batuk is a fifteen-year-old Indian prostitute. She was sold into prostitution by her father at only nine years old, after a less than idyllic, but still relatively happy childhood. Batuk’s path to prostitution is devastating, more so what she has to endure each and every day at the hands of strange men, but writing is her salvation. She writes about her life, makes up stories, and in general endures far beyond what any child should ever have to.
It’s incredibly hard to write about this book. Child prostitution is a difficult and horrible subject. Obviously, it should never happen and it is completely wrong. But it does happen, and James Levine has tried to imagine what that life would be like for a little girl. Batuk has been betrayed by everyone and endures the worst kind of humiliation each day of her life, yet she is portrayed as a hopeful child, still vivacious, making the best of a bad situation whenever she can. The story is even more moving because the reader knows that there are girls like this out there, and Batuk feels real.
It is Batuk herself that is the novel’s greatest triumph. It’s difficult to believe that this girl was written by a man because she does feel genuine in every way. She tries not to think about what is happening to her even as her words give it devastating clarity. She puts up a facade and retains hope even though the reader can sense her unhappiness in nearly every line. She does what she must to make the experience bearable while using the rest of her scarce free time to write stories and remember her past. It would be impossible not to feel for her and wish she could escape this life and go back to the countryside where she was at least an innocent.
It’s difficult to say that I liked this book, because it’s so difficult to read. It’s short, but it’s so moving and heartrending. I think it’s important to read, however, if only so we’re forced to confront ourselves with the horrid reality of what might be for real young girls. The author interviewed child prostitutes and based his book on their stories. It’s fiction like this that inspires us to make a difference, and for that reason I do recommend The Blue Notebook.*
*I received this from the publisher for review. This is an Amazon Associates link.