If you look at satellite photographs of the far east by night, you’ll see a large splotch curiously lacking in light.”. 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. An eye-opening account of life inside North Korea—a closed world of increasing global importance—hailed as a “tour de force of meticulous.
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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 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. Kindle Editionpages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To ask other readers questions about Nothing to Envyplease sign up. I haven’t ever read anything about North Korea or Russia. I’m also very bad at political facts, events and “who’s who”s. Any idea whether I’ll understand this book? I didn’t know anything, or not much about North Korea, and it was an eye opening book, with beautiful albeit painful narrations of several people and families through the years. The writer is very clear and writes with skill, I couldn’t stop listening to it I got it on audio.
Is there anything about travelling in this novel? Lena Nope, it is not a travel guide, and moreover it tells you about places in the country where you would not come to as a regular tourist.
See all 8 questions about Nothing to Envy…. Lists with This Book. A painfully human look at North Korea mostly through the eyes of defectors now living in South Korea or China. Demick peels back the layers of propaganda, parades and leader worship to expose the people and lives underneath.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it hard not to be fascinated by this exceptionally secretive country and wonder what everyday life can really be like living in one of the strictest regimes on earth. Of course, even in the darkest places there are love stories, hopes, dreams and family dynamics.
We see a young couple courting in secret over many years, a woman who loses everything during the devastating famine of the s – a famine which killed anywhere between a few hundred thousand and several million people – and a man sent to a hard labor camp for petty crimes.
Families of defectors, no matter how innocent, are rounded up and shipped off to camps that may as well be called death camps.
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
badbara Its was extremely interesting to get a look inside this closed country, and perhaps even more interesting to see the outside world through the eyes of those who escaped. I can’t even imagine what it must be barbaraa to cross a border and discover that the world is nothing like you always believed.
I recently really enjoyed the fictional Korean story in Pachinkonoghing begins before the country’s division and during the Japanese colonization, so it was great to see the history that so intrigued me expanded upon here. For one thing, I had no idea that traditional dress for Korean women was a head-to-toe veil, not unlike the burka. There were lots of small facts like this that I found fascinating. Nothing to Envy reminds us of something important. That underneath hothing the craziness that is this regime and its deified leader, there are more than 20 million people just trying to feed their families, live their lives, and not get killed for it.
Blog Facebook Twitter Instagram Youtube View all 15 comments. One thread of this riveting National Book Award finalist is a love story. Mi-san is an attractive girl from a family that does not have the right stuff, history-wise, her father having fought for South Korea in the war. Her prospects are only so-so.
Jun-sang is headed to university in Pyongyang to study science. His future includes a good job, a membership in the party and a life of relative privilege. One enchan One thread of this riveting National Book Award finalist is a love story. One enchanted evening, Jun, at age 15, sees her across a crowd at a local movie theater in the northeastern city of Chongjin, and is smitten.
For the next ten years, they will dance a courtship ballet that is both endearing and horrifying. Kim Ji-eun is a sprite of a woman, a true believer in a system that allowed her to become a doctor. But in time she comes to feel differently. Learning that all her extra work gains her nothing from her boss.
Song Hee-Suk, or Mrs Song is another true believer in the North Korean way, volunteering for all sorts of party activities in addition to working full time and caring for her family. She embodies the entrepreneurial spirit here, attempting to put food on the table when there is no work. Nothing to Envy is a riveting, grim portrait of perhaps the most repressive nation on earth, a personification of H. Barbara Demick is a big time foreign correspondent, for the LA Times since She follows the lives of six North Koreans, all from the northeastern industrial city of Chongjin, and brings us their oral histories.
Ultimately all of them find their way to South Korea. It is through their eyes that we see the reality of life in the North. Their stories continue once they have crossed the border, and their stories of adapting to such a strange new world are interesting, but the real core here is the images we get of life in North Korea. It is truly amazing to learn how complete was and still is the control of the authoritarian regime in North Korea, how effective the cradle-to-grave propaganda has been and how alarming the elevation of the Dear Leader to a god-like status.
It is not at all surprising to see how neighbor eagerly turns in neighbor for thought-crimes. I mean we all went to school, and one can always count on there being those who seek advantage by undercutting others. I expect that most of us have a somewhat cartoonish image of North Korea, focusing on the mad king, sorry, party chairman, his dreams of nuclear power and the willingness of the North Korean people to believe all sorts of fantastical things about him.
It merits knowing what the poor people of North Korea must endure.
The horror there, the inhumanity, how the denial of reality affects real people, with real lives. It is no laughing matter. Demick also offers a very insightful look at similarities between those who have escaped the north and holocaust survivors, an apprehension of the qualities one must nurture in order to survive in extreme conditions, and she notes the collateral damage from defecting. The people she portrays in Nothing to Envy are as masterfully portrayed as characters in a great novel.
We come to care about their travails, and get to see their flaws as well as their strengths. There is an impressive bibliography at the end for this book for any who might be inspired to read about this place in more depth. I was reminded, although to a much lesser degree, of how how we were all taught to hate the “dirty commies” back in my school days.
Here is that link, again. Even a dotard could learn something here. View all 37 comments. An amazing, unforgettable book about North Korea. Barbara Demick explores the most closed-off society in the world through the stories of six “ordinary” North Koreans who defect to South Korea beginning in the late s. Here are both moments of beauty the reminiscences of two of the profiled North Koreans about how the blackouts at night allowed them to chastely walk and talk outside their village for hours at a time and, more frequently, moments of horror families deliberately winnowing down their members, i.
As a new mother, I could not imagine being in a position where I could not provide enough food for my young toddler – thinking about all the orphaned kotjebi made me have to put down the book, pause, and collect myself before I could proceed.
Not the only such moment. Demick also discusses the guilt and shame that many defectors have.
One woman who left her children and ex-husband in North Korea mourns, “I sacrified my babies for myself. Another woman, now in South Korea with its plenties and excesses, is haunted by her husband’s last words before he died during the famine, “Let’s go to a good restaurant and order a nice bottle of wine.
It is completely heartbreaking in many places. I, already a sentimental reader in case you, dear Goodreads readers, haven’t already ascertained as muchtend to get even more sentimental when I read about Korea.
Moreover, and more relevantly, my dad is from North Korea, and I can’t help but wonder about the fates of relatives I don’t even envh about.
Nothing to Envy
This book should have great appeal beyond my myopically sentimental lens, fortunately, as it is extremely well-written and compulsively readable and deserves to be widely read and onthing. View all 13 comments. There are few books like this written today: This book is a very personal account of six lives in the failed state of North Korea.
The level of deprivation and humiliation these people endure is heartbreaking. The book reads more like an outstanding piece of social anthropology than it does cut and dried journalism. The author is to be commended for her ability to get inside both the hearts and minds of the people There are few books like this written today: The author is to be commended for her ability to get inside both the hearts and minds of the people she has interviewed.
I think that Nothing To Envy is a landmark book, a study of a culture and political system gone horribly wrong, that will be read for decades. As the author notes, North Korea is the last of its kind, a state with an entrenched despotic, supposedly Marxist, leader who denies not only basic freedoms but also the basic provisions necessary to maintain any quality of life.
Reading this book in the comfort of my own well heated home, I felt both pity for those that live in North Korea and anger for the inability of the rest of the world to do anything while North Korea’s citizens starve to death. The impact of this book is both emotional and intellectual.