- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; Reprint edition (September 21, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385523912
- ISBN-13: 978-0385523912
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,497 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea Reprint Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Following six North Koreans over the course of 15 years, Demick offers a haunting portrait of life in North Korea. Her subjects are instantly relatable—they fall in love, raise families—but as their country grows increasingly isolated, totalitarian, and repressive, and is ravaged by unemployment and famine, they risk everything to leave. Karen White delivers a stunning reading; her character interpretations are confident and well-rounded, and she forges a strong bond with the audience. Powerful without becoming overwrought, White handles the harrowing material with sensitivity and intelligence. An unforgettable listening experience that will resonate long after the final sentence. A Random hardcover (Reviews, Sept. 28). (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
*Starred Review* In spite of the strict restrictions on foreign press, award-winning journalist Demick caught telling glimpses of just how surreal and mournful life is in North Korea. Her chilling impressions of a dreary, muffled, and depleted land are juxtaposed with a uniquely to-the-point history of how North Korea became an industrialized Communist nation supported by the Soviet Union and China and ruled by Kim Il Sung, then collapsed catastrophically into poverty, darkness, and starvation under the dictator’s son, Kim Jong Il. Demick’s bracing chronicle of the horrific consequences of decades of brutality provide the context for the wrenching life stories of North Korean defectors who confided in Demick. Mi-ran explains that even though her “tainted blood” (her father was a South Korean POW) kept her apart from the man she loved, she managed to become a teacher, only to watch her starving students waste away. Dr. Kim Ki-eum could do nothing to help her dying patients. Mrs. Song, a model citizen, was finally forced to face cruel facts. Strongly written and gracefully structured, Demick’s potent blend of personal narratives and piercing journalism vividly and evocatively portrays courageous individuals and a tyrannized state within a saga of unfathomable suffering punctuated by faint glimmers of hope. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Through the life stories of these citizens, the author has gone through what they had to do individually and as a group or family in order to survive. One woman in particular, Mrs. Song, who was the perfect North Korean citizen, was very industrious and resourceful in finding ways to make a little bit of money at a time in order to buy food for the next meal for her family. But she, along with many other North Koreans, went against what the government wanted and set up their own little individual businesses which might have been a tarp on the ground with biscuits for sale. After a while, these little "black market" enterprises made enough money for the people setting them up that they were able to buy more food than they had before, and provided a bit of food for the hungry to buy if they had any to spend at all.
American and other foreign aid in the form of grains, powdered milk and other food goods was sent in huge supplies to North Korea, but a lot of it never got to the people, but wound up being sold on the black market. While his people died of starvation, Kim Jong Il spent millions on food for himself from all over the world that was luxurious and exotic. This is the way of despots and dictators in repressed societies where, like in this one, the slogan was "Let's Eat Two Meals a Day" when most were lucky to eat grass boiled in water. But things get to a certain point when the people who are hard line believers in their government begin to realize that they have been lied to their entire lives. Many of these people defect or make the effort to defect from a northernmost city like Chongjin into China and either into Mongolia and on to South Korea or to Southeast Asia to make their way to a destination where they will be free.
Through these lengthy interviews with the people in the book, the author has given us a realistic and thoughtful look at North Korea. If you read nothing else on the subject, I recommend that you read this.
This is the story of six defectors who left for South Korea and the story of what their lives were like in North Korea under the totalitarian regime. I was familiar with some of the oddities like the oppressively difficult work to participate in the Arirang Games, but not the daily activities of survival such as collecting human and dog waste (fertilizer sales being restricted into N. Korea.)
There were also stories about how N. Koreans feed themselves: the collective changes of food from rice to potatoes or suddenly being told that ostriches will be the best source of meat are echoes of similar failed plans (the Great Leap Forward in China, Castro's failed breeding of Holstein cows for dairy production in a country unsuited to Holstein breed cows, and then the subsequent failed soy dairy set up by the Brazilians that fell into ruin as well.)
This book is very well written and full of unique information I hadn't read in other accounts. Recommended
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Barbaric, tragic, Orwellian. They do not even have nail clippers but have missiles?