Aarti's Reviews > The Blue Notebook

The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine
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Aug 17, 2009

it was amazing

Upton Sinclair wrote a painfully graphic book about the horrors of Chicago's meat-packing district, The Jungle. He later famously said, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."

Dr. Levine does much the same in his book, The Blue Notebook. This is one of the most difficult and painful books I have ever read. Batuk writes in a beautifully lyrical voice, and so it is all the more jarring when she turns from her happy and playful thoughts and dreams to the graphic details that form the stark reality of her life.

I do not have a favorite quote from this book. It is by turns gorgeous and terrifying. There were pages that made me shudder and I admit that there were at least two pages that I was unable to finish reading. I had to skip ahead. This is not a book to read on the train or to wile away a spare half hour. I was close to tears on my morning commute yesterday.

Levine's book is calculated to reach you in that manner. It is written almost as a series of inter-related vignettes more than as a novel. A girl from rural India who, by chance, learns how to read. The apple of her father's eye, who is then sold to a stranger. A seasoned prostitute on the Common Street of Mumbai, taking spare moments to write about the voices of old trees and wise tigers. A poor young woman who dreams about expensive and gorgeous hats. A magical story about the silver-eyed snow leopard, and the power that someone's hope can save them from a miserable situation.

All US proceeds from this book will be donated to charity. It is not an easy book to read. But while some books are read for pleasure, others are read to gain an understanding of our world. This book is in the latter category. Just as Sinclair did in The Jungle, Levine will aim for your heart and hit you in the gut.
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