Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea - Barbara Demick

This was a harrowing read; how could it not be, being about North Korea? But at the same time it was excellent and a book that everyone should read, if they have the chance. When I started it I wasn’t sure what to expect, I mean I’m a bit of a character junkie and I didn’t know how well the people in this book would come across since this is a non-fiction book. I needn’t have worried though, because the characters were as diverse and fully-formed as any I’ve come across in fiction.


A book that embarrassed Kim Jong-il, so-called the Dear Leader by North Korean citizens, when it was first published in 2009, Nothing to Envy weaves together the harrowing stories of six previous residents of North Korea’s third largest city, Chongin. Through a series of interviews with defectors, Barbara Demick has recreated the hidden culture of North Korea. On virtually every page we learn something that is truly inconceivable to those of us living in the modern world. Not only that, but the level of brain-washing is a real eye-opener.


This book focuses on the period of famine during the nineties and is, as a result, a very difficult read. The lengths that people went to to survive, is astounding. There was, however, a brighter future ahead for some of those affected, which I was really happy about.


I can’t say much else about it because it’s really a book that should be read to be fully appreciated. I’ll just say that you should read it, now!