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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

Title: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Author: Barbara Demick
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Spiegl and Grau
Publish Date: December 29, 2009
Source: Library

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a non-fiction fan.
  • You're a history fan.
  • You're a politics fan.
What's the Story?:

From ""Nothing to Envy" follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years — a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the unchallenged rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population. Taking us into a landscape most of us have never before seen, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today — an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, and where displays of affection are punished; a police state where informants are rewarded and where an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life. Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors. Through meticulous and sensitive reporting, we see her six subjects — average North Korean citizens — fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we experience the moments when they realize that their government has betrayed them. "Nothing to Envy" is a groundbreaking addition to the literature of totalitarianism and an eye-opening look at a closed world that is of increasing global importance."

My Two Cents:

"Nothing to Envy" blew me away. North Korea is such an absolutely fascinating subject to me and I have been trying to read more and more on the subject. It's easy to complain about the situation in my own country but reading books like "Nothing to Envy" really help to put things into perspective for me. It could be so much worse.

What I liked most about this book was that it follows the story of individuals. I've read a ton of history books about North Korea but for the most part, most of the books focused on the government and the running of the country. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy reading the history books. This book really let you get into the minds of the people who were actually going through all of these things. Demick pulls you into these people's story so deeply. Her writing is so detailed that you can really see and understand all of these really scary and difficult things that these people are going through. These stories are truly heartbreaking.

This is definitely a hard read but I think it's so important to read books like this. It's important to know what's going on in other places in the world. It's one that really sticks with you. This book really blew me away and I have been recommending it like crazy.



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