- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 12 hours and 29 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Tantor Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: December 29, 2009
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0032G55O0
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea Audiobook – Unabridged
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Top customer reviews
There are so many unforgettable stories in this book, the one of Mi-Ran and Jun-Sang, read like a Shakespearean tragedy. As these two young teens carry on a secret romantic (and non-sexual relationship) violating societal and class norms, the reader understands the true personal loneliness that a totalitarian society exerts not on the individual, the inability to trust even those closest to them. As Jun-Sang's schooling leaves him far away from Mi-Ran, we understand the extent to which a famine consumes the country, killing even the healthiest, and causing citizens like Mi-Ran to consider the unthinkable, fleeing the country through China in order to make it to South Korea to survive the catastrophe unfolding before their eyes to the family and neighbors.
"Nothing to Envy" is a brilliant book in how deeply it humanizes the people of North Korea, pawns of a corrupt, maniacal family that has exerted absolute control over 20+million people for nothing more than power. Outside of the ruling family, everyone else is a dispensable pawn, only valuable in so far as they further the ends of Kim Il-sung and his heirs. Demick gives voice to the untold stories that represent the millions unfortunate to be born into a repressive totalitarian society, virtually all with little hope and no control on their ultimate destiny, most fortunate to have food to eat to live for another day. This book is just as important a read today given how little conditions have changed for North Koreans.
She does an excellent job of showing the facts of day to day life in North Korea in the 1990s and early 2000s. She also recounts their journeys of defection and adjustment to life in South Korea.
Demick gives insight into the cult-like devotion some North Koreans had for Kim Il-Sung, and, to a lesser extent, his son and grandson. In a 1984-Orwellian style society, they had no choice but to follow the regime (or at least pretend). Neighbors would report the slightest behavioral deviations and there are a couple of accounts of people arrested for violations.
It's emotional at times, especially as main characters die (particularly from the famine). Demick conducted extensive interviews with the subjects, lived in South Korea, and traveled to North Korea. If you have any interest in understanding the culture and challenges of life in North Korea, this is a must read.