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Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea | [Barbara Demick]

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen 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.
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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

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  •  
    J.T. 03-13-12
    J.T. 03-13-12 Member Since 2013

    Lover of Non fiction and at times a good fiction listen!

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    "If you want to know how to Survive"

    This is a story that I started with low expectations and found the way it was written made the very scary thought of starvation one of survival lead by the women. Those second class citizens saved their families with incrediable resourcefulness.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    G Tucker Roswell, NM 03-09-12
    G Tucker Roswell, NM 03-09-12 Listener Since 2002

    IT Service Manager

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    "I wanted more"

    This book was as eye-opening as it was shocking. As depressing as it was inspring. I have lived in Asia for 11 years and traveled throughout much of it, including South Korea. I thought I knew a lot. I realize now I knew nothing of North Korea. Good non-fiction is told as fiction, and Demick does an excellent job of weaving facts about North Korea into the lives of several people who lived there through the post-industrial decline and famine of the 90's. I actually didn't want this book to end and when it did I searched for more books on North Korea. Alas there are few. Nothing to Envy makes a huge contribution to understanding that strange and closed place.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wendy Middleville, MI, United States 03-07-12
    Wendy Middleville, MI, United States 03-07-12 Member Since 2013
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    "Not as great as I'd hoped"

    This book really dragged for me in the middle sections: too many details belaboring the conditions in N. Korea. I was very thankful for the iPhone's 3X speed on this one!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt OVERLAND PARK, KS, United States 03-07-12
    Matt OVERLAND PARK, KS, United States 03-07-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Fanastic Human story and history lesson."

    What a fascinating book. I came across this a couple of months ago but did not pull the trigger on buying it. Once Kim Jong-il died a few months back, I put it on my audible.com wish list and finally got around to it. Like I said....fascinating. From the Korean war to the "axis of evil" designation, this book follows a number of N. Korean families and their very personal accounts over the last two decades. While reading this, the one thing that kept going over and over in my mind is the age old psychology paradox of identical twins raised apart-- in this case...60 years apart. One nation brought up under the purest of Marxist beliefs and the other raised under the American version of democracy and capitalism. Early on, the N. Koreans were somewhat subsidized and insulated by the USSR and China up to and until they embraced many elements of free market economics themselves (ie- Glasnost, Berlin Wall, et al). After those big events, the N. Koreans held true to their Marxist ideology; eventually they were largely abandoned by their fomer communist allies and left to fend for themselves; which resulted in a decade long energy crisis and famine-- resulting in millions of deaths.

    In the same period of time, S. Korea has emerged as the world's 12th largest economy. A rising tide lifts all boats.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alan Yuba City, CA 03-02-12
    Alan Yuba City, CA 03-02-12 Member Since 2010

    Dad, Dentist, Adventurer. Well... at least 2 of those.

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    "Fantastic look into North Korea"

    Very well done. Made me hate the Chinese government for supporting those evil dictators.
    Millions of people starved in North Korea because the Chinese kept that government going.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sasha United States 02-08-12
    Sasha United States 02-08-12 Member Since 2015
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    "Engrossing"

    This story was so engrossing, I forgot I was on my treadmill. I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen to the people in the story. Fascinating.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Molly Lancaster, PA, United States 02-06-12
    Molly Lancaster, PA, United States 02-06-12
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    "Fascinating"
    What did you love best about Nothing to Envy?

    This book was just fascinating, the narration was excellent as well. If you're interested in North Korea, this book gives a personal touch to historical events.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    maida smith Sandy Ut 01-23-12
    maida smith Sandy Ut 01-23-12 Member Since 2015

    Maida

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    "Amazing Book"
    Would you listen to Nothing to Envy again? Why?

    Yes- It was such a great explaination of times for those peopel


    What did you like best about this story?

    The Depth of the Characters and the hard choices before each of them


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

    It is easier for me to visualize the descriptions when they are read to me


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

    yes


    Any additional comments?

    Loved this book and enjoyed the voice of the reader.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    T. Keefe Canada 01-10-12
    T. Keefe Canada 01-10-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Thoroughly enjoyable, if a bit grim"

    I have been to North Korea, and lived several years in the South, so the Koreas have been a bit of a hobby of mine. This book tell it like it is (was) and does so while allowing you to care about the case studies, even when they are being jerks.
    I found the end a bit sketchy but that is the nature of a book that tells stories of the living - no neat packages tied up in bows.
    With the recent leadership changes in North Korea, this is an especially timely book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elaine Sumas, WA, United States 01-06-12
    Elaine Sumas, WA, United States 01-06-12 Member Since 2015

    I'm 66. I've read Audiobooks now for 6 years. After an assault, I had minor brain damage and couldn't read. Audible got me back to books

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    "A Land of Prisoners"

    Nothing to Envy is a powerful book about life in North Korea. A heartbreaking history of a people struggling to live in a land without freedom, without nourishment, without medicine, transportation, power, or light. Koreans live in a world that denies their souls. Everything we enjoy is unknown to the people of North Korea. forbidden to speak against the government, forbidden to own a cell phone, or an internet site. This book tells of life in the Dark Age of human history. EE

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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