This was a very interesting read for me for several reasons. Not only is the book "right up my alley" in terms of genre and subject matter, but I was...moreThis was a very interesting read for me for several reasons. Not only is the book "right up my alley" in terms of genre and subject matter, but I was born in the same city Amanda Lindhout frequently talks about throughout her book. It was almost bittersweet reading about the lounges, clubs, restaurants she worked in, given that I frequented many of them at the same time. Additionally, I remember her face and I also remember her talking about saving for a trip (vaguely). Of course, I didn't realize this when I first started reading the book, so it was a surreal experience.
Amanda Lindhout is a truly talented writer. Her words and memories flow beautifully from page to page; I imagine it was very difficult for her to write this book. I hope that in doing so, she found some solace or catharsis.
As many people have mentioned, she is remarkably brave and honest about her feelings and recollections. I would recommend this to pretty much everyone I know for so many reasons, including her strength, resilience, and determination to survive.(less)
I first learned of this book while I was watching the Giller Awards (she was among the nominees for best book). After hearing the description of the b...moreI first learned of this book while I was watching the Giller Awards (she was among the nominees for best book). After hearing the description of the book, and hearing Kim Thuy (the author) speak, I immediately put it on my "to read" list. I am so glad I did.
It took me a while to really get into this book; each page is its own vignette or memory, for lack of a better description. Once I got used to her writing style, I was swept away by her beautiful prose. Truly an interesting and unique perspective of a Vietnamese immigrants journey. She writes beautifully and has a way with words.
A truly gifted author.
Edit: I should also note that this book is originally written in French, and translated by the extremely talented Shelia Fischman. A note of recognition should go to her, because she brilliantly captured the sentiment, beauty, and emotion of the words that Kim Thuy was trying to convey. She did a remarkable job and translated the words and story beautifully. (less)
I've long been interested in the lives of people living in the confines of North Korea. While information is fairly limited, in recent times more and...moreI've long been interested in the lives of people living in the confines of North Korea. While information is fairly limited, in recent times more and more has come to the awareness of the public as individuals bravely tell their stories and surveillance and satellite images become allies in confirming and documenting what is happening in North Korea.
Unlike other books on North Korea (memoirs) that I've read, this one is told from 2 perspectives: that of Shin (the man who escaped), and the author who wrote and told his story. This provides a great perspective because the author helps clarify and really outline the struggle North Koreans' have in assimilating to life outside of North Korea. I also appreciate his frustrations in trying to deal with an escapee, because many people might assume that once out of North Korea, these people can just "get on with their lives" problem free. Clearly, it is a life long process and these people are often traumatized and confused as their feelings (which they are taught to suppress) finally surface.
Shin in one of only two known escapees from labor camps in North Korea, which is an astounding feat. This book tells his life story (from his memory) along with some fact based evidence added by Blaine Harden (author) of his life born into a N.Korean labor camp, to his escape and life after living outside of North Korea.
The chapters are well written, and make an impact. The culture of North Korea is well explained (caste system, rules, blood lines and how one can be considered guilty even if they did nothing wrong by virtue of being related to someone considered an "enemy"of the state, the lives in labor camps, and the conditions people live in).
This is an absolutely beautifully written, poignant story about family, life, loss, coping, and the intricacies of family dynamics, bonds, bottled up...moreThis is an absolutely beautifully written, poignant story about family, life, loss, coping, and the intricacies of family dynamics, bonds, bottled up emotions, and the ties that bind us to each other. I didn't know exactly what to expect of this book, but once I got into the story, I couldn't put it down. Catherine Chung is an immensely talented writer and I look forward to her next book.(less)
So far I'm in love with this book. Adam Johnson's writing style is unique and very much his own. This novel is beautifully written, capturing you from...moreSo far I'm in love with this book. Adam Johnson's writing style is unique and very much his own. This novel is beautifully written, capturing you from the very first line, enchanting you with each successive sentence and paragraph. I have tried to read all I can on North Korea, and Mr. Johnson definitely did his due diligence in researching as much as he could. So far a beautiful story and novel (first half of the book).
Update: I'm on the second half of the book now, and it definitely is different than the first half, which I immensely enjoyed.
I really enjoyed this book as a whole. Once you get into the rhythm of the second half and realize what has happened, the story becomes fascinating from a different angle. I loved how the chapters start with propagandized "Citizens' state announcements" and how the indoctrination and propaganda is woven into ever sentence. This book had a lot of subliminality to it, which I appreciated. I loved the interview at the end with the author as well.
I've studied and read a lot about North Korea as I've always had a fascination with it. In the end, I most appreciated that the author made us see these characters as humans. I find that with the intrigue and mystery surrounding N.Korea, we often forget that these are human beings- people just like us, that have families, feel the same things, hurt and yearn for the same things as we do. Mr. Johnson put a human element to an otherwise faceless and largely stereotyped peoples. I think he definitely captured the harsh lives of the people, put still put a human story to the travesty these people live in.
Masterfully told, beautifully written... The Orphan Master (The Dear Leader himself), is a fantastic novel worth reading.(less)
This was an incredible book: rich with history, insight, and memorable characters and their stories. The amount of research that went into this book i...moreThis was an incredible book: rich with history, insight, and memorable characters and their stories. The amount of research that went into this book is evident from the first chapter. I loved reading about the culture and history of N.Korea, as well as following the 6 stories on the individuals she had running throughout. Very relevant and fascinating subject. I recommend this to anyone interested in culture, foreign affairs, international relations, human rights, humanity, history, love, sorrow, and the stories about simple people and their lives. I often had to stop and remind myself that she wasn't talking about the early 1930-1950's, she was often referring to the 1990 and 2000+, i.e present-day. I have been fascinated with North Korea for as long as I can remember; there is such mystery surrounding it, and yet so many rumors, stories, and interest. I hope the people of N.Korea keep moving forward, and I hope people like Barbara Demick keep writing important books like this--striving to speak truth--and giving a voice to those who do not have it.(less)