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Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea Paperback – September 21, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
Fortunately, Nohing to Envy gives us a "yes" answer to this last question; here is a book where we hear the stories of six North Korean defectors. In interweaving chapters, Demick reconstructs these tales of struggle with the skill of a novelist (and anyone not told that this is a work of journalism may be forgiven for thinking it a dystopian novel a la 1984 (Signet Classics) or We (Modern Library Classics)).
Dr. Kim is a medical doctor, devoted to the Workers party; Mrs. Song is a wife forced to find any way she can to feed her family, including daughter Oak-Hee in increasingly dismal times; Kim Hyuck is a boy whose father gave him to a state orphanage rather than have a son he couldn't support; Jun-Sang and Mi-Ran are secretly boyfriend and girlfriend, each with private reservations about, and struggles with, North Korea that remain private for fear of governmental repurcussions.Read more ›
The book follows six people through their lives in the DPRK in the 1990's, including the huge famine which occurred at that time; and, ultimately, their decisions to defect (a foregone conclusion since otherwise their stories would not be told). I found myself fascinated by them, especially how each figures out that their country's leadership has let them down. The author even managed to fit in a love story which, far from being hokey, is especially riveting due to the circumstances. The book is well-written and easy to read, the only mar being occasional repeated information which is easy to overlook.
I feel like I'm barely scratching the surface with this review. If reading this makes you want to know more, you won't be disappointed by the book.
North Korea suffered two tragedies. The first one was the split of the Korean peninsula at the end of WWII and Stalin installing a like-minded dictator at its helm, Kim Il-sung. The latter eradicates religion and replaces it by his own cult of personality. In achieving a God status in his country, he bests Stalin, Hitler and Fidel Castro. Upon his death in the early nineties, many North Koreans will commit suicides. And, North Koreans will believe (through intense political propaganda) that if they cry enough Kim Il-sung will come back from the dead. The son of Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il will succeed him as a son of God.
North Korea's second tragedy was the collapse of the Soviet Union. When the latter collapsed it interrupted its assistance in food and oil. North Korea did not have enough fuel on its own to maintain its electrical grid. On the first page of the first chapter you see a picture of the Korean peninsula at night. South Korea is full of bright spots (urban areas lit by electricity). But, North Korea is pitch dark! In the post Soviet Union era, North Korea suffers shortages of electricity, running water, and food. Millions have already died of starvation. People are not paid. They are compensated by food rations. But, if you don't work you don't eat. The ones who don't receive food attempt to survive by milling bark, grasses, shrubs, leaves.
The majority of the country still suffers from malnutrition. Millions more would die if not for foreign assistance.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was a fascinating book. I was intrigued from beginning to the end and am now "hungry" for more books about North Korea.Published 2 days ago by Donia Schmiege
This book kept me interested! I learned much about North Korea. I have so much more to learn but this book was a great start.Published 5 days ago by SJNMom
Extremely interesting, fact based novel. The stories of these real life people is amazing and heartbreaking. Read morePublished 7 days ago by Charlotte Taylor
This book had me so captivated that all I talked about for weeks was North Korea. I found myself looking for other books on the subject. Read morePublished 8 days ago by LMH
Great insight in to the world of North Korea. Used to love reading the author's pieces in the LA Times back in the day. Read morePublished 11 days ago by Gene
Exceptionally interesting book. The writing is not phenomenal, but the stories and lives of people living in NK are so engrossing it is hard to put the book down. Read morePublished 13 days ago by Katie
I knew very little about life in North Korea before reading this book. And nothing could prepare you for the wretched, unendurable conditions these people are forced to endure... Read morePublished 14 days ago by veronica c logue