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

by Barbara Demick

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,9591323,472 (4.41)423
Member:tututhefirst
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
Rating:****1/2
Tags:HM12

Work details

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

  1. 82
    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. 20
    Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia's Underground Railroad by Melanie Kirkpatrick (TomWaitsTables)
  3. 20
    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.
  4. 10
    Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite by Suki Kim (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: Both books are compelling, fascinating reads. Nothing to Envy covers a broad scope, and Without You, There is No Us has a tight focus. They explore the North Korean regime from different angles.
  5. 10
    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. 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.
  8. 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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» See also 423 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
Heartbreaking but really well done. ( )
  kate_r_s | Feb 12, 2017 |
Demick interviewed 6 North Korean escapees who all lived in the same town of Chongjin. Through their eyes, we get multiple overlapping accounts of what was really like to live in North Korea in the 1980s and 1990s. Demick is a journalist, and her attention to detail and facts shows in how she reports what the eyewitnesses told her. Gripping and heartbreaking, the book ends by talking of North Korea as a country whose entire (non-elite) population are prisoners. A very apt analogy.

Check out my full review. ( )
  gaialover | Jan 29, 2017 |
Like most people I know next to nothing about North Korea, and this book brought the day to day lives of it's inhabitants alive. It's heart-breaking, shocking and very compelling. There is a mix of personal stories and wider context which is very informative and touching, you're really rooting for the people featured. I'm still stunned at just what a closed and dysfunctional society it is, at the terrible living conditions for North Koreans, and at the fact that some of them break free of the brainwashing to start a new life or keep themselves alive. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Nov 16, 2016 |
This book was recently shortlisted for a National Book Award, and Demick totally deserves to win for her meticulous reporting on six North Korean defectors to South Korea. I didn't realize how little I knew about North Korea until I read this book. It is full of indelible images: the doctor who discovers that in China, dogs eat better than the people of North Korea; the two young lovers sneaking into the darkness, too frightened and too innocent to do anything more daring than holding hands; a wife watching her foodie husband die of starvation.

Nothing But Envy is heartbreaking in places, but ultimately hopeful (although even the hope is tempered by the realization that so many people lost so many years they can never get back). It's a cliche to say that a nonfiction book is "as compelling as fiction," but I could not put this book down, and even after I finished it I was scouring the Internet for updates on the lives of the six defectors. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
In the 1990s, Barbara Demick conducted extensive interviews with North Korean defectors about their lives, and in Nothing to Envy she interweaves their personal tales with some broader historical context to present a portrait of everyday life in North Korea under the reigns of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. It is, of necessity, an incomplete portrait, as even journalists who have been there (as Demick has been) get only a carefully managed, deliberately distorted view of the place, and fact-checking anyone's stories is largely impossible. But it's enough to give a sense of what life is like there. And that life is just... hard to fathom, at least from where I sit, here in the United States.

It's one thing, I think, to know intellectually that North Korea is basically an Orwellian nightmare brought to life, but another to see how that actually plays out in the lives of ordinary people. More than that, I was struck by the extent to which North Korea in the 90s comes across as not merely Orwellian, but as almost post-apocalyptic. It's a place where the lights have quite literally gone out, a place that once had infrastructure that's now broken down, once had industry whose remains have been cannibalized for scrap, once was able to feed its populace but now leaves its people to desperately scour the countryside for whatever meager pickings they can find.

It's often horrific to read about, and yet, in its own disturbing way, absolutely compelling. As are the very human stories of the people affected. This is definitely a book that deserves all the buzz it's gotten. (Even if I am very, very late in adding to that buzz.) ( )
1 vote bragan | Aug 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 129 (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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Epigraph
Dedication
For Nicholas, Gladys, & Eugene
First words
If you look at satellite photographs of the far east by night, you'll see a large splotch curiously lacking in light.
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[...] 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
'Im Land des Flüsterns' ist eine ergänzte Neuauflage von 'Die Kinogänger von Chongjin'
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:06 -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)

(summary from another edition)

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