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Nothing to Envy

By: Barbara Demick

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Imprint: Spiegel & Grau

Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780385523912

Other Formats:

Electronic | Hardcover

On Sale: | Pages: 336

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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
Some might question Demick's heavy reliance on the accounts of defectors, but there is no other way to tell these stories.... What is most gripping about this book is that Demick does not tell; she shows. Whereas most literature on North Korea is laden with blurry statistics and speculation of the policies of ruling elites, Demick exhibits in gut-wrenching detail the struggle for survival that North Koreans face. This makes “Nothing to Envy” a fresh contribution to a tired topic.
—Christian Science Monitor
Song Hee-suk's life has been a tale of personal tragedy and persistence, set against a backdrop of events felt across the globe. Mrs. Song, as she is called in Barbara Demick's enthralling "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea," was born on the final day of World War II, and her father was killed a few years later in the Korean War.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
Ms. Demick has written a deeply moving book. The personal stories are related with novelistic detail... "Nothing to Envy" depicts a society in chaos, where people have lost confidence in their government but don't yet have the will or the tools to rebel. Ms. Demick doesn't offer a view of what the future holds for the totalitarian regime that has oppressed North Koreans for six decades. But the growing discontent can't bode well for the regime's long-term health.
—Wall Street Journal
Demick characterizes her book as "primarily an oral history," but it contains strong cultural portraiture as well, including an excellent evocation of the largely idled industrial city of Chongjin, a northern port and the country's third-largest metropolis, from which some of her refugees hailed or had connections.
—Los Angeles Times
Demick, a former Los Angeles Times correspondent in Seoul, spent seven years interviewing defectors who lived in the North Korean city of Chongjin at the height of the famine. Relying on their remarkably detailed recollections, she has crafted an oral history of a single city in the darkest days of one of the world's worst regimes.... Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea sat on my shelf for several weeks before I cracked it. I was hesitant to commit to what I was certain would be an unrelentingly bleak narrative. Indeed, Demick details slow–motion starvation and the North Korean regime's reflexive cruelty toward its own people. But the book is much more than that, at times a page-turner, at others an intimate study in totalitarian psychology.
—Philadelphia Inquirer
There's a simple way to determine how well a journalist has reported a story, internalized the details, seized control of the narrative and produced good work. When you read the result, you forget the journalist is there. Barbara Demick, the Los Angeles Times' Beijing bureau chief, has aced that test in "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea," a clear-eyed and deeply reported look at one of the world's most dismal places. And she tells it through the eyes, and the memories, of its refugees.
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
Barbara Demick's excellent new book is one of only a few that have made full use of the testimony of North Korean refugees and defectors. A delightful, easy-to-read work of literary nonfiction, it humanizes a downtrodden, long-suffering people whose individual lives, hopes and dreams are so little known abroad that North Koreans are often compared to robots.... a highly believable account that can serve as an excellent introduction to North Korea for general readers even as it adds to the insights available to specialists.
—San Francisco Chronicle
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