Wednesday, 8 August 2012

An insightful read on the topic of North Korea

"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 North Koreans.

--The stories--

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 experiences.

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.

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