Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

I read this for my One Drink Minimum Book Club.  I would not have picked this on my own to read but I am so glad that I did.  North Korea is in the news a great deal, but I will admit to being pretty ignorant about it other than in broad generalities.  Barbara Demick painstakingly reveals the horrors of life in North Korea through interviews with people who escaped to the south.  The book is extremely well written and detailed in descriptions.  I will say that it is not a light or uplifting read.  At points, it is unbelievably depressing.  Reading about what the escapees and indeed most citizens of North Korea endure makes it hard to believe that it is real.  You almost get the sense you are reading some dystopian novel.  The casual treatment of family members dying of starvation and illness, a kindergarten class whittling down from 50 to 15 due to starvation and disease, and a mother saying at one point “everyone who was going to die already had” and then you remind yourself this is real, happening now, in your lifetime and that  realization is like a slap in the face.

Highly recommended for readers of non-fiction, people interested in events occurring in Korea, and even people who read dystopian literature.

 

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5 thoughts on “Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

  1. Annie says:

    I will definitely look out for this one. A few years ago I went to a model UN conference and I was North Korea (uh-huh). It wasn’t the easiest role to prepare for but I remember watching a great undercover documentary on youtube, done by an American crew who went in through China, and it did hint at all these problems: there were hotels, but they were 90% empty. There were restaurants but they were empty except for the crew and had menus but only 2 items were available to order etc. There were shops, but little food in them. The list goes on. 😦

    • It really is an eye opener of a book. It makes you wonder how anyone has survived in North Korea.

      • Annie says:

        There are some horrible things going on in the world, but hopefully the more international things get (with papers, the web, telephone, aeroplanes etc) some of them will disappear. We can only hope. I think the problem with North Korea is how isolated they have become – they can’t ask for help – and with their new leader firmly following the footsteps of his predecessor I’m not sure that will change anytime soon. 😦

  2. This isn’t one I think I would have picked straight off, but your review has me interested. Tough life there….

    • I probably wouldn’t have picked it up but it was picked by my book club. I am glad I read it because North Korea is in the news now a great deal and I feel like I have more of an understanding of the situation.

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