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Nothing to Envy

Ordinary Lives in North Korea

by Barbara Demick

Nothing to Envy
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2009, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2010, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

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A journalist follows the lives of six North Koreans over 15 years

Barbara Demick's book, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, attempts the nearly impossible task of introducing and immersing readers to an utterly foreign and inaccessible world. Demick's recounting of the stories of six North Korean defectors seems designed to emphasize the regular aspects of their lives rather than the incomprehensible - the concerns of life that Americans and North Korean citizens share. Many times Demick is successful in drawing her reader into the forbidden world of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), but some tales are so jarring that one has to fight against disbelief and shock to stay connected to the characters. This is the kind of book that is riveting one moment and revolting the next: a fitting description, perhaps, for the country it explores.

Six North Koreans' stories are intermingled to create Demick's narrative. All are ...

Interesting Links

  • NPR interview with Barbara Demick
  • The BBC's In Depth Special Reports web page for North Korea
  • Read more about North Korea in BookBrowse's review of Bamboo and Blood

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