Lydia's Reviews > Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
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's review
Jan 05, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: nonfiction, north-korea
Read in September, 2010

I listened to the audiobook as I was driving to and from work, and this one captivated me from beginning to end. I think the best nonfiction books inspire you to dig deeper, and make you want to tell their stories to your friends. The descriptions of the big events in the book, Kim Il-Sung's death, the 1990's famine (which I was completely ignorant of, as I was a teenager busy wallowing in my first-world problems) made me sit in the car long after I had arrived home. However, it's the small details in this book that get you: the fact that North Koreans are physically smaller than South Koreans, that they speak an antiquated version of the language, that medical students go into the mountains in the spring to harvest herbs to treat their patients (because they have no medical supplies). The fact that NK stopped its desperate citizens from going near the coast in case they were going to "steal" the country's resources (ie. seafood). The ingenuity of the people in their survival, and the terrible grief of those who escape to South Korea, but leave their families behind. Worst of all: The fact that these nightmarish scenarios are still happening today. You can't let the stories go after you finish reading. Kudos to the author (and the North Korean escapees) for bringing these stories to light! Highly recommended.
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