Book Title: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Author: Barbara Demick
My Review Rating: 5/5
The book is a compelling read and is based upon the stories of 6 defectors who escaped from North Korea and share their sorry state of affairs inside the country. It is primarily based upon the author’s interviews with them – from time to time – in South Korea to see how they are getting on in their new life. For better reading, the book can be divided into three parts. The first part describes a bit of history and how towards the end of the Second World War when Korea is freed from Japan’s occupation and America and Russia drew a line across the middle and separate North Korea from the South, it virtually seals the fate of people. The North gets closer to communism while the South inches towards capitalism. The middle part of the book describes the lives of the people and how they struggle to get the even most basic amenities for their survival. They seem to be at constant war with themselves for their survival and this is where the most heart rendering experiences are shared and in my opinion this is the most difficult part of the book. While those who live in Pyongyang are fortunate the rest of the country is starved and poor. However, as we know how hard is it to get any authentic news out of North, but considering even an iota of what is described is true, we are at pains to see the sad plight of the people living there. Finally the last part of the book describes how they escaped and their new lives in the south. Although some have adapted better than the others however, initially all of them had diffculites adjusting to the South Korean environment. This is clearly evident in the fact that although since centuries both Koreas were economically same and also shared the same culture and forefathers, the events in the last 50 years or so have clearly created a very large divide and made them seemingly poles apart. While North has plunged into darkness the South is amongst the developed countries of the world. So, overall, the book is brilliantly written and structured however at the same time it is also a tough & sad read considering you’ll be touched by it as you progress towards the end.