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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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

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Great Insight Into Worst of Famine Years

What did you love best about Nothing to Envy?

how it detailed the lives of everyday people living in the worst area ( the North) and worst time ( 90's) a time period and geographical region the DPRK would rather keep in the dark from the rest of the world. This is a rare insight and an extremely detailed one at that. The stories of the individuals leave nothing out. If you are bored by minute details this book is not for you. If you like me are fascinated by everyday life you will love this.

What did you like best about this story?

how it detailed the 90's famine did not gloss over it like other books, got down to the nitty gritty of what it is like to fight constant food shortages and hunger over years. does not merely mention that hundreds of thousands of people starved, goes into detail about what it did to these individuals bodies, minds and spirits, something us 1st world people really need to be hit over the head with

Did Karen White do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

Sometimes I got a little confused as to who was who

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

when a woman's estranged adult son comes home and dies because she cannot feed him.

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The more you know!!

Would you listen to Nothing to Envy again? Why?

I would potentially listen to it agian, in order to capture moments I might have missed the first time. I think more than anything it encourages the reader to seek out more stories of people's lives in North Korea and those who defected out of North Korea.

What other book might you compare Nothing to Envy to and why?

I kept being reminded of a collection of poetry, Flowers from Hell by Nguyen Chi Thien. Who wrote his poems while in a Vietnamese labor camp.

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

It can easily be broken up into pieces.

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one of the best books I have read

I feel richer knowing the sad story of North Korea. I know people that realy deserves help.

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Excellent - I couldnt stop listening

Would you listen to Nothing to Envy again? Why?

Great narration. The book is presented in a way that is fascinating and interesting. well researched. It gave me a new perspective on North Korea

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Great, a very interesting perspective.

Would you listen to Nothing to Envy again? Why?

This is a great book.

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

Enjoyed the narration. I do not agree with others that criticized her reading.

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Fascinating book

The book starts out slow but stick with it. The author does an impressive hob in weaving together the stories of those who grew up in N.Korea and defected. Well worth the time!

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must read

Wow. Truly a fantastic and eye opening book, very well written. I can't recommend this enough.

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Excellent!

The author's style of writing makes this book a very enjoyable read. She tied together the stories of several North Koreans along with a history of the country.

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Progress is not a given

We all know governments can do good or make life worse. This book is the definitive proof that: 1) governments can make life infinitely worse, 2) power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, 3) communism eventually just kills a lot of the people it is supposed to be helping, 4) the pursuit of freedom is a stronger force than a dictator for those who will not accept being a slave to the state, and 5) when the chips are down, your family is your greatest strength. An amazing story of small triumphs and huge tragedy. Very sad. It does not reflect well on China. It shows that China continues to have no regard for people, only the state/CPC.

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  • Jaycob
  • CAMBRIDGE, MA, United States
  • 04-13-15

Amazing!

One of the most moving books I've come across. A reminder that we all share common experiences