Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book Review: Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Wow.  Nothing to Envy:  Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick is a very shocking and interesting book.  Demick is a journalist who has covered North and South Korea for the LA Times since 2001.  She tells the story of several different families trying to survive in a devastated North Korea.  She uses excellent sources for her information to make the book dramatic, factual and realistic.  Demick creates an amazing connection between the reader and the people she is writing about. 

"In NOTHING TO ENVY, Demick follows the lives of six people: a couple of teenaged lovers courting in secret, an idealistic woman doctor, a homeless boy, a model factory worker who loves Kim Il Sung more than her own family and her rebellious daughter.
"Demick spent six years painstakingly reconstructing life in a city off-limits to outsiders through interviews with defectors, smuggled photographs and videos. The book spans the chaotic years that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the unchallenged rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, the devastating effects of a famine that killed an estimated twenty percent of the population, and an increase in illegal defections.
"While many books focus on the North Korean nuclear threat, NOTHING TO ENVY is one of the few that dwells on what everyday life is like for ordinary citizens. With remarkable detail, Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime in the world today. She gives a portrait as vivid as walking oneself through the darkened streets of North Korea."  http://nothingtoenvy.com/about-nothing-to-envy/

"Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years—a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, 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 most of us have never before seen, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today—an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, and where displays of affection are punished; a police state where informants are rewarded and where an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life.
"Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors. Through meticulous and sensitive reporting, we see her six subjects—average North Korean citizens—fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we experience the moments when they realize that their government has betrayed them.
"Nothing to Envy is a groundbreaking addition to the literature of totalitarianism and an eye-opening look at a closed world that is of increasing global importance."  http://www.amazon.ca/Nothing-Envy-Ordinary-Lives-North/dp/0385523904