Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over 15 years - a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung and 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 never before seen, Demick brings to life what it means to be an average Korean citizen, living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today - an Orwellian world in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, a country that is by choice not connected to the Internet, a society in which outward displays of affection are punished, and a police state that rewards informants and where an offhanded remark can send a citizen to the gulag for life. Demick's subjects - a middle-aged party loyalist and her rebellious daughter, an idealistic female doctor, an orphan, and two young lovers - all hail from the same provincial city in the farthest-flung northern reaches of the country. One by one, we witness the moments of revelation, when each realizes that they have been betrayed by the Fatherland and that their suffering is not a global condition but is uniquely theirs.
Nothing to Envy is the first book about North Korea to go deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors, and penetrate the mind-set of the average citizen. It is a groundbreaking and essential addition to the literature of totalitarianism.
©2010 Barbara Demick; (P)2009 Tantor
"A fascinating and deeply personal look at the lives of six defectors from the repressive totalitarian regime of the Republic of North Korea." (Publishers Weekly)
Yes. The author gives an informative, entertaining, and thorough view of North Korea through the stories of real North Koreans. By using the stories of real North Koreans, the author can trace the history of modern North Korea in a way that's entertaining & human without being didactic.
The narrator was very good. Her reading was lively and felt true to the source material.
I am a fan of David Sedaris, so at a recent reading he encouraged fans to check this one out. Very good advice! As you listen to this one, it's almost surreal that as advanced as our society has gotten, there are still people like this in charge of the lives of human beings. It also make you wonder what is going through Dennis Rodman's head to befriend people like this. Next time you hear someone complain about their "first world" problems, point them in the direction of this book. It is truly eye opening. The author did an amazing job at mapping out the lives of the chosen few and, as a reader, I felt like I was living in the shoes of these poor souls and couldn't wait to get to the end to see how it all ended. The narrator also did an outstanding job giving a voice to this book.
The stories, and the way they are told, are gripping, suspenseful. I am not very emotional, but I teared up multiple times.
It crawled under my skin, and told me about a country that I intellectually knew existed, but never really thought about, until I had nightmares that I and my family were among them. It was that kind of book.
The dark side of the coin
Wow, listen. And then re-listen. As soon as I finished this book, I restarted it to listen a second time in case there was anything I missed while I lived my day to day life.
Nothing to Envy provides the reader with insight into the opressive regime that controls North Korea and how the individual and family unit has been affected. A true cautionary tale of what happens inside a totalitarian regime and why it is so difficult to change.
It was an informative and interesting look into a world much different than our own
Will read (or in this case, listen) to just about anything.
Excellent book about a common news topic that most people still know amazingly little about: North Korea. The stories of real-life North Koreans who made it out and lived to tell the tale are riveting. Strongly recommended.
short, fat, and stupid.
loved it. A great true tale of normal North Korean citizens. Loved it loved it loved it.
It was really hard to decide if I was a sexist pig that didn't like books written and/or read by women or if the narration style was awful. I wrestled with that question for most of this book. Fortunately the next book in my queue was written and read by a woman and was good and the tale was told. Cutting to the chase, in my opinion, this breathy narration would better serve Winnie the Pooh. Lady, we're talking about the DPRK, not unicorns. Frankly the narration is so miserable I have no idea if the book is any good or not. Perhaps we would be better served by the print version,
Say something about yourself!
The story of the people of North Korea as told by those who were able to make it out to South Korea is told with compassion and insight. The details provide strong images and we get to know several people in depth and really come to care for them. Karen White describes well what it is like for people who are hungry and also for people who have maybe just enough to eat and must live among the hungry. A powerful picture of what it is like to live in a country where the government is not functioning to help people yet still all powerful--as in it is not okay to complain.
Very well. A haunting story to be certain.
The fight between Mrs. Song and Oak-hee. Oak0hee proved she was stronger then her mother's blind devotion.
I hadn't before.
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