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)
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.
I really enjoyed this title. The author really did a good job of weaving together the story of these defectors with the politics and history of N Korea in a way that transcends the individual pieces. By the end you feel like you really care about these people, and the story is proof that sometimes truth is as compelling as fiction.
The narration was pretty jarring at first to the point where I almost returned it - but I got used to it after a half hour.
Even though I've listened to NPR stories about the severe, authoritarian North Korean government, I really had no idea about what was/is happening there. I can't imagine crying more at the death of my president than that of my spouse and/or parents. Especially if I was out eating weeds and starving to death while my government wouldn't give me rice because it had been donated by the U.S. (our flag on the bag).
I might compare Nothing to Envy to 1984 because of the way citizens had to hide their feelings about their government. I'm sure there is a better book to compare it to (fiction vs. non-fiction) but I'm not claiming to be "well-read".
The narrator, Karen White, does an excellent job of bringing these folk's lives out, without over or under doing the painfulness. I would have to say that she was the perfect choice for this book because if the person had been monotone, I would have struggled listening to the history (as I sometimes struggle with non-fiction keeping me awake).
I really hope that people will read this book, if for no other reason than to appreciate their own lives more (however, please don't think that sentence means that this book shouldn't be read for its quality all by itself--It is amazing what Demick has been able to show with her storytelling ability). The U.S. government is corrupt but at least we can still catch them at it and go after them.
That I was never bored or drawn-away from the story. I wanted to listen to every riveting detail. This book made me laugh out loud as well as shed some tears. It truly drew me in.
I enjoyed hearing how North Koreans used to live prior to the economic crisis and drought that brought famine to the country. There used to be a happy time in the country and hearing how full generations were established and trusted in their leadership brings new understanding to why they live like they do today.
This entire book is packed with interesting tidbits about the North Korean culture. It's such a different world they must live in. But one fact that humored me and stands out is how they believe women should not ride bicycles, and if they do they should sit sideways, or they could lose their virginity.
Likes books and reading/listening
If you are wondering which account of life in North Korea to read first, pick this one. Ms Demick provides a wonderful overview. She walks the reader through how North Korea ended up as a "freak show" among opressive totalitarian nations. Then she settles her lense on the lives of several individuals and their lives in North Korea. She takes us along on their journeys to South Korea. Finally we get to cehck in on them and see where life's path has taken them during the adaptation process.
My favorite kind of audible book is the kind where I can't pry myself away, not for a minute. Nothing to envy is exactly this kind of book.
If this glimpse into North Korea is not enough--does not leave you sated, and you are "hungry" for more, read "Escape from Camp 14" next. Why? the background is not as through. And perhaps because "Escape from Camp 14" made me really curious about the lives of regular folks.
I loved the stories in this book. I lived in Estonia for 2 years after the Soviet Union collapsed and was mesmerized by the stories the people told me about life in the Soviet Union. That said these stories weren't as shocking to me as they might be unacquainted with day to day stories of life in a communist country. The exception was the famine. I don't think anyone with a heart could hear about what is happening in North Korea due to lack of food and not be effected. I had a hard time putting this book down and ended up listening to it with any chance I could just to hear these stores.
the frankness of the stories
The performance was mediocre and actually annoying at first. At the beginning of the book the reader uses a very broken staccato like pattern of speech which I found distracting , especially with the breathiness. I don't know if these things were less frequently occurring as the book continued or I just habituated but about a chapter in I wasn't really paying attention to the reader because the stories were so good.
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.
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.
The rebellious daughter, you really empathize with her from the moment the character is described.
she did a great job on all of them
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
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.
Report Inappropriate Content