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Nothing to Envy Audiobook
Nothing to Envy
Written by: 
Barbara Demick
Narrated by: 
Karen White
Nothing to Envy Audiobook

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

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Publisher's Summary

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (2075 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Joe C. San Francisco 04-03-13
    Joe C. San Francisco 04-03-13 Member Since 2003
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    "Great book, poor reader"
    What didn’t you like about Karen White’s performance?

    How hard is it to figure out that people don't want to listen to the narrator gulp down every breath? Extremely annoying and distracting.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HakunaMatta 03-25-13
    HakunaMatta 03-25-13

    HKO

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    "Fascinating insight into a country few get to see"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Nothing to Envy to be better than the print version?

    I have not read the book, but this book is written such that the audio version is not lacking anything the book could provide. moreover the narrator is very good.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The rebellious daughter, you really empathize with her from the moment the character is described.


    Which character – as performed by Karen White – was your favorite?

    she did a great job on all of them


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    when the doctor discovers the bowl of rice and meat on the ground in China and slowly comes to realize that dogs in China eat better than doctors in North Korea


    Any additional comments?

    this was a great audio book! it had the right balance of history and personal stories to give you the feeling of being a member of the low class in North Korea and to begin to understand the sociopolitical & economic climate that would create and maintain such a country.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Will Columbia, SC, United States 03-10-13
    Will Columbia, SC, United States 03-10-13 Member Since 2006
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    "Eye-opening and hope-ending in many ways"

    With all that's been in the news about North Korea lately, I thought it time to learn more. This book is, I think, as good of a place to start as any.

    The book is about several citizens, mostly in the lower end of the sociopolitical strata. You learn that all of these people are escapees from the regime and though I believe the accounts, you do have to recognize that they represent a unique sample of the society.

    That said, Barbara Demick does a great job of telling the stories without embellishing the accounts. My guess is that she realizes that they don't need any added emphasis or passionate vitriol; for most Americans, the situation under the "Dear Leader" is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.

    If you ever wonder why the people of North Korea hate us so much, you will get your answer in this narrative. You will also learn, as I did, that the chances are very low that we will see another Libyan or Syrian type uprising in North Korea (we will be dealing with the most unfriendly country imaginable until we or they cease to exist). Finally, you will also learn, as the title explains, just what an ordinary life in North Korea looks like.

    Karen White's reading is adequate, but not great. I don't want to tell you what bothered me about her style lest you listen for my complaint. However, if you do find yourself thinking that something about her reading bothers you, keep listening. Either she gets better, you get used to it, or the story becomes so compelling that you don't notice.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Crystal Angier, NC, United States 03-10-13
    Crystal Angier, NC, United States 03-10-13 Member Since 2015
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    "Clears the Fog"
    Where does Nothing to Envy rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is one of the better nonfiction books that I have listened to. It is more than just a bunch of information that we can put in our brains in the section marked "North Korea". It is a book that connects with me emotionally and makes me want to reach out and know more.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    There were many compelling aspects of this story. I'd have to say, though, that I most liked that Demick was able to connect me with more than one character, which is something that I enjoy in Charles Dickens' works.


    Which character – as performed by Karen White – was your favorite?

    I loved the character Miran.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, it was.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. B. 02-20-13
    L. B. 02-20-13

    labon

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    "Inside look"
    Where does Nothing to Envy rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Pretty high, interesting and a view of life outside of my realm


    What does Karen White bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Listening seemed better, reading might be dry at times


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Connie 02-18-13
    Connie 02-18-13
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    "I KNEW BUT I DIDN'T KNOW"

    A Korean American co-worker recommended this book and I was shocked throughout it - how could this happen, and continue to happen, to an entire nation (albeit a small one)? In my opinion, it should be required reading in history class and yet another lesson to all on how one egotistical & crazy man can take over an entire nation and bring it down.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gil Northern CA 02-05-13
    Gil Northern CA 02-05-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Nothing to envy"
    If you could sum up Nothing to Envy in three words, what would they be?

    enlightening, gripping, sad


    Have you listened to any of Karen White’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    I'll listen to this repeatedly to get a better feel for life without freedom or incentive to work hard to improve one's station in life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carla Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada 02-05-13
    Carla Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada 02-05-13 Member Since 2015
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    "Wow, what a world"

    I really enjoyed this book. I knew basically nothing about north korea and became completely absorbed in the stories of these people's lives. Wow, what a place.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tony 02-04-13
    Tony 02-04-13 Member Since 2013

    I listen to approximately 40 hours of audio books a month. I love audio books.

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    "Fascinating yet Chilling"

    This was a well written book depicting the lives of average North Koreans. These people have truly led incredible yet horrific lives. The North Korean regime is evil on a level that's hardly conceivable to the average North American. I enjoyed this listen very much and agree whole heartedly with the title. I wish with all my heart that better things are to come and soon to the North Korean people.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marina Canada 01-30-13
    Marina Canada 01-30-13 Member Since 2010
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    "A book everybody must read or listen"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I was recommended this book by a friend and I have recommended it to many of my friends and family already. I also want my children (who are teens) to listen to it. The book provides a unique opportunity to "experience" vicariously (through the lives of the people who were lucky to escape the country) what live in North Korea is. How people can be brainwashed and what a dictatorial regime can achieve in a little bit more than half a century. After reading the book I watched a number of YouTube videos of the people who were able to escape from the country. Their descriptions and the books gave me (I think) a good picture of what is happening there... It also made me appreciate how much in our lives doesn't depend on us. What if I was born in North Korea - how much freedom to shape my life would I have had? I felt lucky not to be born there, yet I often felt at awe by the people who were able to realize that the way they were forced to live was a lie, that things were NOT going right and it was not there fault... Being born in the Soviet Union, I could make a lot of parallels with what I heard in the book and I what I have experienced. I, however, felt lucky to experience the fall of the Soviet Union and I hope the people in North Korea will live to experience the fall of their regime.

    I also think the idea of the book is very interesting as it gives us a very different prospective from the book if it was just written by a visitor to the country.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I am not sure I can say who my favourite character was... Probably the author who was meeting all these people and tried very hard to understand what they went through.


    What does Karen White bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Her narration is excellent. I somehow imagined her to be the author, the person who interviewed the people... I like the narration very much. I listen to the book in a few days - it was very engaging. I also felt that she felt compassion for the characters in the book. She was a part of the story.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    I grew up in the Soviet Union and this made me reading the book even more interesting. I am not sure I picked up one tidbit, but I was able to look at these people and see myself in many of the stories... We were like them and somehow people in the former USSR were able to resist this brainwashing. I hope their regime will be toppled and South and North Korea will reunite (although I am very concerned about the process)...


    Any additional comments?

    I just loved the book and would like to express my thanks to the author and to the people who produced this wonderful audiobook. A great read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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