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)
Gripping and shocking stories about living under totalitarianism, but not depressing and sometimes even humorous and relatable stories that speak to humans everywhere trying to just get along. She explains how one of the most bizarre dictatorships in modern history was able to happen, and why it will likely fall soon. Demick is very fair as she profiles people to show shortcomings and personalities for what they are. This book is solidly on the side of democracy, but Demick doesn't saint the people she writes about which makes you trust that she is telling you the truth about everything else. Never knew much about Korean history in general before this book, but now I'm hooked. Didn't notice a tick with narrator's breathing as others complained, but listened on speakers and not on headphones which might make the difference.
I couldn't get past the narrator in this book. I was looking forward to the listen after reading so many wonderful things about the book but Karen White would be better reading children's books and not something as serious and thought provoking as this book. I will get the actual book to read and never listen to a book read by Karen White again.
I have listened to numerous audible books and usually they have been pretty good. This one is not a good book to begin with, but when combined with a totally incompetent reader, it makes the whole package unacceptable. Save your money and stay away from this loser.
living in los angeles I drive a lot, so audio books save me from a lot of frustration!
Foraging for wild greens, forbidden love, separation, prison camps and brainwashing. This reads like a dystopian novel and although it gets tough at times, you know that since their stories are being told, the people in this novel eventually escaped. Truly mind blowing and highly recommended.
This narrator breathed into the microphone whenever she had to take a breath mid-sentence. Almost like she was gasping for air. The was really annoying - got better after listening for a while, but it still bugged me throughout the book.
She also seemed to be trying to put on a bit of an Asian accent that comes across as robotic to me. Again, I got used to it over time, but quite odd.
The story itself is intensely interesting, so it was not difficult to keep listening even with the weird narration.
I almost wish that I had read it instead of listening to it because I think I may have enjoyed it more.
I can usually suffer through even the worst narrators, but this was horrendous. I couldn't get thru more than about 30 minutes. Why on earth would they use this woman?
I've listened to hundreds of audible.com books and this is the first time I've felt compelled to write a review to comment on the absolutely terrible narration which it's a shame because the book is very good. The narrator takes huge gasps for air between almost every phrase. Much of the narration also came across as very condescending which I felt was disrespectful of the people whose stories are told. The only way I could continue listening was to double the narration speed.
I generally finish every book I download. Could not get through this one. Monotone recitation of what amounts to a laundry list of what North Koreans don't have. I tried skipping ahead to see if it would improve, but all I missed was page 2 of the shopping list.
There is a lot of good information in here about how people live in North Korea, but the stories are all anecdotal–the information gathered from people now living in South Korea. The author seems to have spent little time in North Korea herself. In order to give the stories immediacy, she adds all kinds of florid prose and descriptions that I am sure are not the words the people telling her the stories used. For instance, I'd be hard pressed to talk about a high school romance and recall that warm wind ruffled my hair, leaves blew around my feet, yet she has her source, a middle-aged woman, recount this level of detail. As does everyone. No one is ever scared...they lay huddled beneath thin blankets quivering in terror. That is fine for fiction but in a non-fiction book it rings false. Ms. Demick should have done a fiction book where she could show off her writing skills instead of putting words in the mouths of "ordinary" people.
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