"Nothing to Envy" by Barbara Demick is a collection of personal true life stories about lives in North Korea. Before reading this book, I knew little about the nation, apart from the fact it was ruled by a dictator.
This book really opened my eyes to things going on in this forbidding
nation. The harsh economical realities of being a nation relying on
external support are explored in this book with personal accounts from
The stories are a collection of personal accounts from people the author
has encountered in her research on the country. These tell stories of
lives in North Korea including very romantic love stories affected by
social standing and laws of the country.
--Personal opinion of the book--
It was a page turner, I really couldn't put this book down. I was
recommended it by my other half for an insight into North Korea. I found
out so much new information about the country, including how false the
displays in Pyongyang are for Westerners visiting the country and how
many people risked their lives to take themselves and their families
across the border to China and the extent of the famine in the country,
with people eating everything they could, even resorting to cooking
sticks and dirt.
The story turns to that of a lady, whose family is dying about her of
starvation and of prosecution for civil unrest. It tells of the rise of
the black market produce and how people made and sold things on illegal
markets to feed their families.
A beautiful love story tells of a couple who are in different social
classes, one has to go away to a military school in Pyongyang and one
who works as a school teacher in the countryside watching her pupils
gradually starving to death unable to do anything.
The struggle is encapsulated by the storytelling of the desperate
measures people took to hear news from the outside world, including
listening to an illegal radio turned down incredibly low under cover of
darkness in order to get some news from China.
The story gives a real insight into life in North Korea, that shadowy
nation including all the details of propaganda inspiring passion for the
leaders and the lies believed by the nation as to the greatness of
their country and the masked famine problems.
It really explains how the nation has got away with its policies so far,
and suggests varying opinions on the leadership from first hand
What stands out about this book is the personal accounts. It is
incredibly difficult to find people who are willing to talk about their
country due to the nature of the oppressive regime, it is dangerous to
talk, especially for those with families left behind. The author did a
great deal of research around her topic which made the book fantastic.
--Where to buy and price--
I think ours cost about a tenner for a large paperback copy. You can get
it from Waterstones and Amazon. I have just discovered you can get a
copy from eBay for £2.45! Someone buy that copy quick!
It was worth every penny (had I bought it, it belongs to my boyfriend but I think he felt the same way :))
There is also a website at for those interested.
Read this book!! It was absolutely brilliant and kept me hooked from start to end.