Great book, describes the daily lives of many in North Korea by focusing on several people with different backgrounds. The book also shows how they defected and what happened to them after they got to South Korea. The narration though is somewhat robotic, "Siri"-like.
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This is exactly what I was looking for. If I can't go to a place, or if I am preparing to go somewhere very foreign to me, I want to know the tangibles. What is it actually like there? I don't want to hear "poor" or "dirty". Nothing to Envy paints the best picture possible on what existence is actually like in North Korea. What the people go through on a day to day basis. I would love to hear from soldiers or police that keep the government system in place...if even they are starving and complicit in the great lie, then what keeps them from turning on their capture? A great follow up book to read would be on understanding the psychology of hostages like the North Koreans. What is it exactly that makes them never question authority and to continue to drink the koolaid even though it tastes horrible?
I hate downer books! If I want to jump out a window at the end, it's not getting a good rating. At the same time, feel-good books make me ashamed to have read them. Upon finishing "Nothing to Envy," I did not feel horrible or gross. I just felt informed in a real way.
In school, I learned that communism is bad and America is good. I could list the reason why communism doesn't work including political, administrative, economic, and social pitfalls. I've seen the Hollywood blockbusters complete with emotional fraught of living under an oppressive regime. I think the thing that sets this book apart from most available narratives IS the "ordinary" part. It's not about freedom fighters or folks with extraordinary will. These are stories of your mom, your second cousin, the clerk at the grocery store. Nothing fancy. Just real people with real strengths and real flaws and how THEY handled it. Completely fascinating!
Whatever your political strength, the suffering of the people in North Korea is a travesty. Barbara Demick puts a face on it.
Barbara Deming does a masterful job of weaving the stories of defectors from N
Korea into a vivid narrative that gives a very personal view of ordinary lives endured under the most inhuman regime on earth.
how it detailed the lives of everyday people living in the worst area ( the North) and worst time ( 90's) a time period and geographical region the DPRK would rather keep in the dark from the rest of the world. This is a rare insight and an extremely detailed one at that. The stories of the individuals leave nothing out. If you are bored by minute details this book is not for you. If you like me are fascinated by everyday life you will love this.
how it detailed the 90's famine did not gloss over it like other books, got down to the nitty gritty of what it is like to fight constant food shortages and hunger over years. does not merely mention that hundreds of thousands of people starved, goes into detail about what it did to these individuals bodies, minds and spirits, something us 1st world people really need to be hit over the head with
Sometimes I got a little confused as to who was who
when a woman's estranged adult son comes home and dies because she cannot feed him.
I would potentially listen to it agian, in order to capture moments I might have missed the first time. I think more than anything it encourages the reader to seek out more stories of people's lives in North Korea and those who defected out of North Korea.
I kept being reminded of a collection of poetry, Flowers from Hell by Nguyen Chi Thien. Who wrote his poems while in a Vietnamese labor camp.
It can easily be broken up into pieces.