Nothing to Envy

Nothing to Envy

Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Paperback - 2009
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An eye-opening account of life inside North Korea--a closed world of increasing global importance--hailed as a "tour de force of meticulous reporting" ( The New York Review of Books )

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST * NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST

In this landmark addition to the literature of totalitarianism, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick follows the lives of six North Korean citizens over fifteen years--a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il (the father of Kim Jong-un), and a devastating famine that killed one-fifth of the population.

Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive regime today--an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, where displays of affection are punished, informants are rewarded, and an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life. She takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors, and through meticulous and sensitive reporting we see her subjects fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we witness their profound, life-altering disillusionment with the government and their realization that, rather than providing them with lives of abundance, their country has betrayed them.

Praise for Nothing to Envy

"Provocative . . . offers extensive evidence of the author's deep knowledge of this country while keeping its sights firmly on individual stories and human details." -- The New York Times

"Deeply moving . . . The personal stories are related with novelistic detail." -- The Wall Street Journal

"A tour de force of meticulous reporting." -- The New York Review of Books

"Excellent . . . humanizes a downtrodden, long-suffering people whose individual lives, hopes and dreams are so little known abroad." -- San Francisco Chronicle

"The narrow boundaries of our knowledge have expanded radically with the publication of Nothing to Envy. . . . Elegantly structured and written, [it] is a groundbreaking work of literary nonfiction." --John Delury, Slate

"At times a page-turner, at others an intimate study in totalitarian psychology." -- The Philadelphia Inquirer
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, 2009.
ISBN: 9780385523912
9780385523905
0385523904
Branch Call Number: 306.0951 DEMICK
Characteristics: xii, 314 p. : ill., map ; 24 cm.

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b
bordiaradha
Oct 26, 2020

Brilliant book! Below lines from the book stung me deep:
Liberty and love
These two I must have.
For my love I’ll sacrifice
My life.
For liberty I’ll sacrifice
My love.

- Sandor Petofi

t
tjdickey
Mar 07, 2020

You are in for horrors and triumphs both, in Barbara Demick's detailed lives of six "ordinary" citizens of North Korea. Her interviews with these individuals traces their lives in the shuttered dictatorship, through the death of the "Great Leader" and the devastating famine, in unstinting descriptions of the brutal conditions of life under Korean communism. As recently as the 1990s a teacher was watching her five-year-old pupils die of starvation, and a hospital doctor needed to forage in the mountains to concoct her own medicines. Each of the protagonists honestly tell of their patriotism and eventual disillusionment, and their escapes from the nearly pre-industrial conditions.

b
BernieIven
Dec 12, 2019

Liberty and love
These two I must have.
For my love I’ll sacrifice
My life.
For liberty I’ll sacrifice
My love.

- Sandor Petofi

This poem, a favorite of North Korean Jun-sang encapsulates the bittersweet realizations of both North Koreans who stay and defectors who leave.

In Barbara Demick’s gripping account “Nothing to
Envy” she skillfully profiles the ordinary (and extraordinary) lives of Jun-Sang and other North Korean providing a spectacular insight into life in this little-known country, and the totalitarian tragedy that is socialism.

A great read.

m
mini_moon_pie
Jun 04, 2019

The most interesting part of the book to me happened near the end. Though the people Demick interviewed suffered greatly in North Korea, they all explained how they were waiting impatiently for the regime to collapse, the 38th parallel to simply be a latitudinal line on a map. They want to return to North Korea and help people by going back to their jobs as teacher, doctor, and engineer. It’s 2019, and that hasn’t happened.

Nothing to Envy helped me understand global politics much more, and I highly recommend it to everyone. Dictatorships can happen anywhere.

w
WoodneathReads
Oct 14, 2018

This book follows the lives of six ordinary North Koreans over fifteen years. I am typically not a non-fiction reader, but this one provided so much insight to what it means to be living under a repressive regime. These North Koreans raise families, have ambitions and also struggle for survival. Read this wonderful book to find out why someone would leave, but then return! --Shirlee (See more of my picks by following WoodneathShirlee)

w
WoodneathShirlee
Aug 03, 2018

This book follows the lives of six ordinary North Koreans over fifteen years. I am typically not a non-fiction reader, but this one provided so much insight to what it means to be living under a repressive regime. These North Koreans raise families, have ambitions and also struggle for survival. Read this wonderful book to find out why someone would leave, but then return!

s
sharylkalal
Mar 23, 2018

This book was honestly a very good read. I thought that the story each of the six characters in their North Korean life and describing what it's like is what intrigued me and made for an interesting book. It is sad how they live compared to us and how they are restricted to what they can do and if one bad thing happens, it could affect the entire bloodline of a family.

cals_readers Dec 13, 2017

Personal narratives of six defectors from the Republic of North Korea. Contrasts the reality of daily suffering and famine under tyranny with the grandiose images of their propaganda.

h
horthhill
Nov 01, 2017

"Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea" by Barbara Demick is an oral history of North Koreans who managed to settle in South Korea. It's reads as a biography of about a dozen people whom we first meet in the early '90s. The cohort experience the severe North Korean famine of the mid-90s. They then leave North Korea in the late '90s and early 2000s. Demick collected the stories from interviews conducted in South Korea from about 2005 to 2010. Worth the read.

h
Hvevans
Sep 21, 2017

Heartbreaking stories from defectors of North Korea. This book is really great if you are interested in learning about the country and the true lives of people under a complete Dictator.

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