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Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North…

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Barbara Demick

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1,506974,914 (4.43)333
Title:Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Authors:Barbara Demick
Info:Spiegel & Grau (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, Audio books, Read but unowned

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Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (2009)

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  1. 62
    Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle (lorax)
    lorax: Pyongyang is an outsider's view of the one part of the country where foreigners are generally permitted; Nothing to Envy is an inside look at ordinary life elsewhere in the country where the situation is even grimmer.
  2. 30
    Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (Stbalbach, rebeccanyc)
    Stbalbach: Amazing story of escape from a North Korea prison camp.
    rebeccanyc: Demick's book explores the lives of several people who lived in and escaped from North Korea, while Harden's focuses on one individual who was born in and escaped from a North Korean slave labor camp. The two books complement each other.
  3. 20
    Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia's Underground Railroad by Melanie Kirkpatrick (one-horse.library)
  4. 00
    This is Paradise!: My North Korean Childhood by Hyok Kang (justine28)
    justine28: This is Paradise is a first-hand account of North Korean regime and especially the 1990s famine as experienced by a defector. Very similar to the stories gathered by Demick - a journalist. The two books complement each other.
  5. 00
    Kim Il-song's North Korea by Helen-Louise Hunter (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Credited in Nothing To Envy as one of the sources of info about DPRK.
  6. 00
    Tibetan Diary: From Birth to Death and Beyond in a Himalayan Valley of Nepal by Geoff Childs (meggyweg)
  7. 03
    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (weener)
    weener: One is fiction, one is non-fiction. One is in Latin America, one is in Asia. Both are heartbreaking, deeply affecting tales of life under totalitarianism.

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English (96)  Italian (1)  All languages (97)
Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)

It's almost unfortunate that Demick wrote this book before Kim Jong-un took power from his father. Stating, as she does, the extreme difficulties of managing survival basics in North Korea, and particularly the effort to dissuade public opinion that this is true, her opinion on how Kim Jong-un's leadership is progressing would be invaluable in regards to this book.

Having been a reporter in Asia for many years - and in fact, she cites her works in the notes repeatedly - she certainly seems to be the right person to have written this. The main thrust of it is to inform about the conditions in North Korea, particularly during the famine of the 1990s, that led to mass starvation, struggle and desperation, and caused an increase in defections.

Naturally, it's impossible to write this with zero bias, since Demick has not lived inside North Korea, only having visited what the North Korean government deemed appropriate to visit. But I don't see that the defectors she spoke with have any reason to lie about the difficulties of living and surviving in North Korea - except perhaps to further the agenda towards reunification, in order to finally be reunited with their family and friends. And since she includes defectors who didn't actually have reasons to defect per se, the descriptions of life in North Korea are that more substantial and trustworthy.

I would recommend this book. However, it's heart-rending to read about seeing dead bodies in the street, and homeless youths stunted by food deprivation, and the continued faith in the leadership through all of this. It's fast, fascinating reading, but it's difficult to read for those reasons. ( )
1 vote khage | Jul 18, 2014 |
Journalist Barbara Demick interviewed and befriended several defectors who fled the DPRK when their lives were threatened. She interviewed them meticulously, with sensitivity, and amassed invaluable information about daily life in North Korea. She spoke with an ordinary family in the rural region and met with a privileged scholar who was rising through the ranks of Pyongyang's elite. All of these stories have been woven together as a large-picture saga of people trying to get by in a dictatorial necrocracy, their moment of revelation, and their ensuing flight from the fatherland.

This is an excellent first book for any novice who is curious to learn about North Korea, without wanting to wrestle with dense academic historical prose. ( )
1 vote sxoidmal | Jul 9, 2014 |
Everything you want to know about the sorry state of the last bastion of totalitarian/communism, in the soul-numbing, automaton version imagined in Orwell's 1984. Told by the former L.A. Times Seoul-based correspondent through the stories of several defectors, whose bleak circumstances lead them to make harrowing efforts to escape. The iron curtain drawn between the "Chosins", as they call their countries, is much thicker than the wall that divided the Germanys. Astounding that the regime survives. I was glad to see her follow through with their assimilations into South Korean society. (The book was marred only by some unedited repetitions in a couple of places that I find inexcusable.) ( )
  JamesMScott | Jul 8, 2014 |
Barbara Demick has written a thorough engrossing account of life in North Korea, one of the world’s most isolated countries. By following the daily lives of ordinary people, she demonstrates the seemingly limitless power of the government over its citizens. Yet, as the reader will learn, the human spirit doesn’t give up without a fight. I highly recommend this book. ( )
  JoStARs | Jun 15, 2014 |
Stunningly and sadly on target. I lived in South Korea from 1989 to 1991, and I kept finding myself nodding my head "yes" to so many things. A book that may not be completely comprehensible ("surely it can't be THAT bad"), but very, very accurate. ( )
  limamikealpha | Jun 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)
Barbara Demick's book Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea opens with a nighttime satellite image of northeast Asia that shows the bright lights of South Korea and China. In the middle of the photograph is a dark spot — a nation of 23 million people that has little electricity.
added by bongiovi | editNPR (Jan 6, 2010)
Nothing to Envy – the title comes from a piece of propaganda aimed at hoodwinking gullible North Korean citizens – is a fascinating work which highlights in the lives of the individuals concerned the triumph of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.
Elegantly structured and written, Nothing To Envy is a groundbreaking work of literary nonfiction.
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If you look at satellite photographs of the far east by night, you'll see a large splotch curiously lacking in light.
[...] she couldn't deny what was staring her plainly in the face: dogs in China ate better than doctors in North Korea.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385523912, Paperback)

A National Book Award finalist and National Book Critics Circle finalist, Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy is a remarkable view into North Korea, as seen through the lives of six ordinary citizens
Award-winning journalist Barbara Demick follows the lives of six North Korean citizens over fifteen years—a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and a devastating famine that killed one-fifth of the population. 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, where displays of affection are punished, informants are rewarded, and 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, and through meticulous and sensitive reporting we see her subjects fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we witness their profound, life-altering disillusionment with the government and their realization that, rather than providing them with lives of abundance, their country has betrayed them.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:57 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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.… (more)

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