Sunday, January 29

Joint Review: Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

First book of the year! *cheers* We will be discussing 'Nothing to Envy' by Barbara Demick. We've changed the format a hair. Blodeuedd is in blue and Carole is in red/brown. 
Author: Barbara Demick
Title:Nothing to Envy
Genre: Nonfiction
Pages: ebook
First Published: December 29th 2009
Where I Got It: On my Shelf (Amazon)

Award-winning journalist Barbara Demick follows the lives of six North Korean citizens over fifteen years--a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and a devastating famine that killed one-fifth of the population. Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today--an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, where displays of affection are punished, informants are rewarded, and an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life. Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors, and through meticulous and sensitive reporting, we see her subjects fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we witness their profound, life-altering disillusionment with the government and their realization that, rather than providing them with lives of abundance, their country has betrayed them.

Let us begin.

Yes, let us begin….first I want to say that poor North Koreans!! The ending was hopeful-ish that many are realizing that things are not that great, but they still have to pretend to live.

I found it sad, since this book was written a few years ago and they had hope then that their country would change. But, they will surely all be dead before then :/

Super sad. I just can’t even imagine living there.

The sad part is not even the camps, the starvation, or the fear of being ratted out by a neighbor. The scary part is how people believed because they are being brainwashed since birth. Every freaking person. That is just messed up. Our glorious leader will save us. HA, your glorious leader is eating great food and driving around in a fancy car and living in a mansion.

Agreed. The brainwashing is the scariest part. It happens everywhere though and that is even more scary. Luckily in “free” countries we do have those that use their brain and don’t let the brainwashing happen. However, in North Korea they have to believe in the lies in order to survive. It’s so tragic. :/

The part that hit me was when the doctor escaped to China and saw a bowl of rice just sitting there, and then she realized that all those things she had heard were wrong. The rest of the world was not a hellhole. Instead dogs ate better than people in North Korea :/

That got me too. All the moments of the characters when they realized, “Crap...this place is crap and I gotta get outta here.” Hit me hard, because it’s hard to leave.

Yes, all those moments were tough one. They realized this was hell, they were told the rest of the world is crap, but no other choice than to actually go and take a look. So they did.

I think my favorite story was the doctor’s. I felt so bad for her with all those sick kids. I wouldn’t be able to handle it, because there is zero you can do.

I liked the lovers too cos they were so caught up in their own world, and the woman who believed, but then she realised she had to survive, and to survive, she had to change. She made a real change in her life.

Yes, they were all good. I do wish I didn’t read chapter one, because I feel it was more like a prologue and it gave away the ending to the lovers, so I wasn’t that into them because I knew it was going to break my heart.

That is why prologues suck. I do wish it had been about one person so we could have looked deep or whatever. But at the same time I liked that it was about different people from different background who all came to leave that forsaken land.

I go back and forth about how I feel. I liked having different views during the same time period and how things impacted them. However, like you, I do feel like I would’ve liked a more in depth background of a character.

In-depth would have been good. I am not saying this was an awesome story. BUT, it was an interesting book about life in a miserable country. And I wanted to know what happened.

Very interesting and I learned a few things. I think my biggest issue was that it felt like a history book. Yes, yes, it is a nonfiction, but the writing was lackluster in my opinion. I felt like I was reading this for a class in some instances.

Sorry journalists, but it did feel like a newspaper article, and that was what it had been. She did not write as maybe an author would have. She writes well, but not ...compelling? Hmm, dunno what it was. I have only read one NK book before and that was one actually not as good, it felt like a YA book. It did not touch on what people did to survive, it touched no bad things. It was too clean. Here we saw the bodies in the streets. I felt this one was more real in that aspect.

You could tell this was written by a journalist. Interesting, lots of information, you get the facts, and it makes you think/feel. However, it wasn’t compelling and pretty. No pretty words or anything like that.

At least I feel it was one of the better ones I have chosen lately ;) Cos I did read it in almost a day.. It is a fascinating country. And an evil one.

Hahaha it was for sure worth the read. I read it in a couple of sittings. I do encourage others to read this. You know what scares me? How people predict North Korea will crumble and fall apart in X amount of years and they still haven’t. They still keep going and surviving. I wonder if they will ever crumble and those people can finally be free.

Everyone is just so scared so even when things are bad, they go on, they die. As long as the Leader is there, I fear it will not fall. It would take a drastic regime change.
This book also made me think how people can be so taken by a leader, and even though he has flaws, they do not see them.

It’s sad and scary. You can see that even in the modern world too. People are so easily fooled.

There are so many silly things, like how he invented hamburgers, how he is a god. How his dad would risen from the dead if they just believed hard enough. That is brainwashing for sure. Something about a unicorn too, sigh.

LOL yeah there are so many things that they actually believe in. I just don’t get it myself. I do want to read more and try to understand.

So, we can agree it was good with a nonfic for once then? :) I do also say that if not this one, then others should really read something set in North Korea.

Yes! It was also a good shake-up to our normal discussions. And yes, people should read a book like this set in North Korea. It truly made me appreciate the things we have.

Like food! Or that I can say that my own government sucks without being sent to a camp. Oh and my government does suck ;)

OMG yes food. I can’t even imagine….that is not how I would want to go. Oh! Please. My government is WAY worse now ;)

But still not as bad as North Korea...yet.

Oh gods, both of our governments are way better than that. If we were in North Korea just saying what we just said would end with us disappearing and being killed. *shudder*

II can not even imagine!
So...the end?
Your turn next.

The end I suppose. Honestly, this is a topic that can be talked about all day. LOL But I need to go digging for a good choice.

Yeah, it would never end. Oh and I am hungry, dinner is ready. Could not say that in north korea….

I am going to go eat lunch myself!

What an interesting book this was. I learned a lot of the factual information and the emotional impact of the citizens. Or the lack of emotional impacts. Many people in North Korea are blinded by their faith in the system and their leaders. It is very scary to think. I enjoyed the tales of the characters. I especially liked the doctor's story. For being a female, I am surprised they let her be a doctor. She went through a lot and seen a lot of terrible things especially during the famine in the 90's. My only issue was the actual writing style. You could for sure tell it was written by a journalist, which is not a bad thing. At some points, I truly felt like I was reading a history book and a series of articles. To the point and lots of information thrown at the reader. However, this was overall a good book. Very interesting and seeing North Korea from the eyes of actual people. I highly recommend this book or something like it. Out of five stars, I shall stamp this with 4 stars. 


Blodeuedd said...

Your time next then :)
And I should pick a movie!

Carole Rae said...


Anachronist said...

Nice to read your joint review, ladies! Pity the book was poorly written and yeah, communist dictatorships suck!

Carole Rae said...

Thanks Ana!!! Yes, but I kinda expected it since I knew this was a journalist writing this. LOLL Booo on communism. LOL Looks good on paper, but bad in reality.