WINNER OF THE 2010 SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION What if the world imagined by George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-four was real? What if everything around you was black and white except for the red letters on propaganda signs? Where spies like Orwell's thought Police studied your facial expressions during political rallies to make sure you were sincere in your expressions and your thoughts? If you couldn't turn the dials of your radio away from the government station?In fact, there is such a place: North Korea, the only country not connected to the Internet by choice. Ruled over by a dictator, visible only in carefully controlled images, it's a mysterious, even sinister country. But it's also a place where 22 million people live, work, and dream of a different life.Journalist Barbara Demick spent a decade covering North Korea's strange politics and regulations. then one day she met a young woman defector, Mi-ran, who told her about growing up there; about the cinema she used to go to when the country still had electricity, and about the teenage romance which blossomed there.through Mi-ran's story Demick glimpsed another, more human side of North Korea.In Nothing to Envy, Demick re-traces the life of Mi-ran and of five other North Koreans, taking us into the heart of an elusive society. We see her subjects fall in love, nurture ambitions, and struggle with survival and betrayal. their stories form a haunting portrait of a bizarre society and the cost it exacts on its citizens.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Journalist Barbara Demick’s account of life in modern-day North Korea is beautifully written and thoroughly frightening. Interviews with six defectors from the world’s most walled-off and repressive nation provide Demick with a jumping-off point for her compassionate exploration of how North Korea’s ordinary citizens engage in everyday activities like shopping and forming friendships and romantic relationships against the backdrop of mind-boggling depravation and suffering. Nothing to Envy: Life, Love and Death in North Korea is an important book that frames the tragedy of the Asian country’s totalitarian regime through a compelling, relatable and deeply affecting lens.
A fascinating and deeply personal look at the lives of six defectors from the repressive totalitarian regime of the Republic of North Korea, in which Demick, an L.A. Times staffer and former Seoul bureau chief, draws out details of daily life that would not otherwise be known to Western eyes because of the near-complete media censorship north of the arbitrary border drawn after Japan's surrender ending WWII. As she reveals, "ordinary" life in North Korea by the 1990s became a parade of horrors, where famine killed millions, manufacturing and trade virtually ceased, salaries went unpaid, medical care failed, and people became accustomed to stepping over dead bodies lying in the streets. Her terrifying depiction of North Korea from the night sky, where the entire area is blacked out from failure of the electrical grid, contrasts vividly with the propaganda on the ground below urging the country's worker-citizens to believe that they are the envy of the world. Thorough interviews recall the tremendous difficulty of daily life under the regime, as these six characters reveal the emotional and cultural turmoil that finally caused each to make the dangerous choice to leave. As Demick weaves their stories together with the hidden history of the country's descent into chaos, she skillfully re-creates these captivating and moving personal journeys.