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)
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.
Revealing, Courageous, Warning.
The way that the individuals involved managed to defect, and how they had to live prior to that defection.
A very good narration. She read it as if she were the one that wrote the book. For a minute there, I thought it was the auther that was reading the book.
The Great Deception.
This should be required reading for All Americans to remind them of the freedoms that we continue to have in this country in spite of the current administration.
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
Barbara Demick, a Los Angeles Times journalist, has painted a harrowing picture of what life has been like in North Korea since the establishment of the Democratic People's Republic in 1948. Her narrative is based on interviews with several defectors from Chongjin, North Korea who told her their life stories and related the huge change in quality of life they experienced following Kim Il-sung's death in 1994. Up until then, everyone at least had a roof over their heads and sufficient food, but the famines of the 90s made what had been difficult living until then seem like ideal times in a country where food, electricity and housing are now considered luxuries even for the well-educated. This novel was published in 2009, prior to Kim Jong-il's death in December 2011, so of particular interest to me was the description of how the North Korean people reacted to the passing of his father Kim Il-sung in 1994, who had been considered as a god, due in no small part to the propaganda which was and still is all-pervasive. It was reported that the recent images of grieving North Koreans seen in the world's media had been staged, and Demick's descriptions of how people (over)reacted to Kim Il-sung's death do support this theory. That the North Koreans should so thoroughly grieve a man who's corruption has only brought them worsening inhumane living conditions show the extent of the oppression of the regime on it's people. All the same, Korean children continue to be taught a song that says they have "nothing to envy" the corrupt Western world, something which they wholeheartedly believe even into adulthood, so shielded are they from reality. Fascinating, and of course, very troubling reading which helps us uncover a bit of the mystery surrounding that part of the world.
The narrator does a good enough job, but I found the strong intake of breath with every sentence very distracting at first and wondered how I'd manage to focus on the narrative. It says a lot about Demick's abilities as a reporter that I was eventually able to block it out.
Fascinating look into one of the darkest corners of the world. "Truth is stranger than fiction" - truer more so here than any where else. Demick is a good writer. I would have appreciated a more dramatic conclusion - something more poignant that would stick with the reader. But the harrowing story in its entirety is enough to leave a significant impression. I felt hungry while reading about the famine.
I am an English teacher in China and can now read and write some Chinese.I have been to 13 countries on 4 continents.I am an avid audiophile
I was shocked to discover in detail what it is like to suffer through a famine.I was amazed at the resilience of the people to bounce back from set backs and to escape the oppression of this modern day horror of a country.It was surprising to discover that provided a North Korean could escape and make it to Mongolia they could gain entrance to South Korea and a completely different life than the one of meager existence they endured in the north.The world has turned a blind eye to these people and we are all so lucky to have such simple abundance in our developed countries.It is hard to believe such a state can still be perpetuated,but I'm sure there is even worse happening in places like Africa.
This book is amazing - holds your interest throughout - I found myself bringing it up to talk to others about almost everyday.
Educator for 40 years. Teacher of children with disabilities. Now an administrator. Love to listen to books during 45 minute drive time.
Don't miss this book! Very interesting and sad. Hard to believe how a people can be so misdirected and denied basic human rights. Take a risk and listen to something that is out of your comfort zone. You won't be sorry. This book is informative and well written.
Makes an impact
The stories for each of the different North Koreans were so well told it made is so easy to visualize and very gripping.
The story of Meeh ran who became a teacher and had to see her students starving and dying.
I think generally I was outraged listening to what these people have to endure under a dictator. It is so hard to comprehend when you live in a free nation.
I highly recommend it. It will really give you perspective on life.
Ignorance IS Bliss
The small number of successful defectors and their Post Tramatic Shock.
Pretty much transparent.
Oh My God. There really is a hell and many residents actually believe it is heaven.
EVERYONE should either read or listen to this book. Listening is the most informative.
This book really does a good job of describing life in North Korea . The descriptions of the conditions that the people live under is close to Hell or a socialist heaven!
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