Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea


I selected this book by Barbara Demick from the recommended list for the Book Voyage  #bookvoyagechallenge challenge.  I had the book escape from Camp 14 in my TBR pile and decided to read this one as well for variety on the topic.  

Demick does an amazing job of capturing the stories and perspectives of several North Koreans who ultimately escaped the country.  Their stories are amazing and the most interesting part for me was the degree to which the people of the country are completely unaware as to what is going on in the world outside North Korea.  For that matter there is minimal information and communication within the country.

Demick took an interesting approach to the work by focusing on individuals with a connection to the same locale within North Korea.  She identified people from different backgrounds which helped to highlight the caste system that exists in the country.  Many of the individuals were actually supporters of the regime and members of the Working Party.   The stories detail how their transformations and decisions to leave came about.  

There are some heartbreaking and honest depictions of the suffering that occurred especially during the famine of the 1990s.  Demick does a good job of presenting the stories of the defectors and minimizes adding political opinions to the accounts, unless they were the observations of the individuals featured in the work.  Demick also shared factual observations from her own visits to North Korea.  

All in all this is an eye opening account of just how 3rd world that nation is and the struggles the people are suffering through even still today.  

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North KoreaNothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazingly terrifying account

This account of the true experiences within N Korea is written in such a way it can be easy to forget it is non-fiction. In fact at times the horrors described made me wish it was fiction. I knew on a high level the atrocious lives much of the residents of N Korea live but this details it in the stories of those who lives it. The defectors came from various walks of life within the same region and their stories are amazing.

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Challenge Prompts

The Challenge Prompts I will use this for are:  

  1. Library Love  #LibraryLoveChallenge  Book #51
  2. Literary Escapes  #LiteraryEscapes  North Korea
  3. Non Fiction Reader  #2021ReadNonFic  #8. Indigenous Cultures
  4. PopSugar #popsugarreadingchallenge #15. A book with a black-and-white cover
  5. BooklistQueen   # 5. About a Pressing Social Issue
  6. Spells and Spaceships Post Apocalyptic Badge  post apocalyptic or dystopian setting
  7. Pick your Poison #18-3 A book by a journalist or news photographer
  8. Book Voyage  #bookvoyagechallenge  Asia – North
  9. 52 books in 52 weeks  #36  dystopian

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