Nothing to Envy

Nothing to Envy

Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Book - 2009
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Follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years, a chaotic period that saw the rise to power of Kim Jong Il and the devastation of a famine that killed one-fifth of the population, illustrating what it means to live under the most repressive totalitarian regime today.
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, 2009, c2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780385523905
0385523904
9780385523912
Characteristics: xii, 314 p. : ill., map ; 24 cm

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b
becker
Jun 13, 2017

This book takes us into the lives of 6 North Koreans during the great famine of the 90's. This is something that everyone could benefit from reading; if only to be made more grateful for the lives we have. The book is inspiring and shocking.

e
Eosos
Jan 14, 2017

This is a very interesting book on how the reign of a few tyrants can completely destroy a countries people, economy and lifestyle. I think it might make it worse for those that remember what life was before the current regime or those who immigrated into this country, which seems crazy now but was apparently considered a good prospect at one time.
If you have grown up knowing nothing but this type of poverty I imagine it will be difficult to assimilate into a capitalist type society, which the author does address a little at the end of the book with the interviewees and what the South Korean government does to help now.
Not being a stranger to literature and commentary on the difficulties of the people in other communist countries, nor even the plight of this particular country, it did enlighten me in just how controlling the government is here and how hard it is for the average person to live. It made for a compelling read.

r
rationallady
Jan 02, 2017

Outstanding! I read it in four days. This is Orwell's "1984" in nightmarish detail-and it's real.

n
NinaAlt
Sep 24, 2016

An upcoming trip to south korea urged me to read up on the country's history and I am so glad I did. This is a fascinating book giving you a glimpse into what it was like during the famine in the 90's and what it probably still is like to live in north korea in 2016. it's heartbreaking to read people's stories and inspiring that despite their circumstances, they managed to turn their life around completely. an absolutely inspiring read!

martins_mom Jul 25, 2016

Amazing that all of this was going on and the information lockdown made it impossible to know about it. Stories of starving schoolchildren and desperate adults are heartbreaking. Demick has done a great job of synthesizing the period.

c
chrisky6
May 13, 2016

I found the accounts of day to day life in North Korea fascinating because of how little I know about the lives of its citizens. The book is an incredible window into what happens when things break down: the fabric of society fails, autocrats dig in, and people are forced to survive through some combination of ingenuity, preservation, and luck.

r
ryner
Aug 07, 2015

Prior to borrowing this title from the library, I'd had only the vaguest idea of what life appeared to be like in North Korea: urban areas were drab and purely utilitarian, its citizens were indoctrinated to revere their leaders as divine, and the leaders themselves were not only nutty but dangerous. The greater reality, at least by the collective accounts of defectors, is even more strikingly shocking and dismal. The severity of famine, the degree of state surveillance, the ways in which citizens are encouraged to police one another, and the permanent psychological and physical damage being done to generations of Koreans made me want to weep. Barbara Demick has written a powerful, infuriating and heartbreaking book.

PimaLib_SherriP May 06, 2015

An interesting look into the lives of six ordinary citizens.

b
bark601
Mar 20, 2015

A fascinating but devastating account of life in North Korea.

I heard about this from reading Without You, There is No Us by Suki Kim. That was a gripping account of teaching the sons of the elite at a missionary school in North Korea.

Another good one, though totally different, is something like The Birth of Korean Cool.

s
savtadina
Feb 26, 2015

This is an extremely powerful book. The author was the L A Times correspondent for both North and South Korea for 7 years. She only got into North Korea two times (once with the LA Symphony) and under very controlled conditions. So she found out about North Korea but meeting and interviewing people who had fled that country, especially 6 of them. Two of the 6 were extremely patriotic and had never given a though to leaving, but one started to when she saw if she stayed she would die of starvation, as many others had. As a doctor, she saw many patients who had stunted growth, reddish hair, etc. from lack of food, and she was powerless to help them.

The author paints a very powerful and caring view of the people she interviewed.

She also explains how people semi-deify the leaders of the country and, at least until the lack of pay for work and the family in the later 1990s, they felt that North Korea was the best possible place to live.

I highly recommend this book.

I had heard an interview with the author of Without You, There Is No Us, but when it was not available at the library, I found this book instead. I am glad that I did.

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