Nothing to Envy

  • by Barbara Demick
  • Narrated by Karen White
  • 12 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction 2010.
Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over 15 years - a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung and the unchallenged rise to power of his son, Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population.
Taking us into a landscape never before seen, Demick brings to life what it means to be an average Korean citizen, living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today - an Orwellian world in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, a country that is by choice not connected to the Internet, a society in which outward displays of affection are punished, and a police state that rewards informants and where an offhanded remark can send a citizen to the gulag for life. Demick's subjects - a middle-aged party loyalist and her rebellious daughter, an idealistic female doctor, an orphan, and two young lovers - all hail from the same provincial city in the farthest-flung northern reaches of the country. One by one, we witness the moments of revelation, when each realizes that they have been betrayed by the Fatherland and that their suffering is not a global condition but is uniquely theirs.
Nothing to Envy is the first book about North Korea to go deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors, and penetrate the mind-set of the average citizen. It is a groundbreaking and essential addition to the literature of totalitarianism.


What the Critics Say

"Excuse me, but I must insist you listen to this book. This is a mandatory one. It's so well written; beautiful and terribly sad. Demick interviews North Koreans who have escaped and weaves together a narrative that's astonishing. It's the best audiobook I've listened to in the last year." (The Guardian)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Great book - dreary reader

I really enjoyed this book- it's well written and the facts and figures were all new to me. I have been to South Korea and was impressed by the attitude of the people there- particularly towards their 'brothers' in the North. many have suffered because of the random decision to draw a line across the country.The journalism is superb - to get such fine and detailed knowledge must have been challenging given the expectations of citizens to inform on each other.
However the narration is dreadful - too fast and monosyllabic - I have found this with several readers just lately and now I am being much more careful to listen to the reader before I purchase as the narrator has a huge impact on both the enjoyment and understanding of the book.
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- Eileen

Darkness & Cold: Life In North Korea

North Korea is probably the worlds most closed society, so when I saw this title I was immediately compelled to purchase it as I'd seen so little in the past about the place and its citizens.

This book follows the lives of several North Koreans over the years that eventually led to their defection to South Korea. This is a truly fascinating and often shocking and depressing read at times, but is a real eye-opener to the incredibly hard lives that people have in North Korea. As someone who could only guess at the living conditions in North Korea, even I was shocked to read about the often deeply ingrained level of brain washing the population at large received about the outside world. Despite the primitive conditions, people actually believed that their country was the best there was and that they had nothing to envy of anywhere else.

Particularly during the famine years of the1990's the level of deprivation was truly shocking, but perhaps more shocking was how so many people were accepting of this as the 'norm' and despite hardship and starvation the often unshakable belief that their God-like leader would take care of them. To give you a flavour of how backward the ordinary people were, one person refers to a freezer as a 'North Pole machine' which I thought indicative of how little people had.

Reviews are not my strong suit, but suffice to say that this title is a riveting read and excellently researched and written. It will leave you dumbfounded as to how in the 21st century people are forced to live this way.

Highly recommended.
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- Stephen

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-11-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios