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Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea Paperback – 8 Jul 2010
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This is an easy way to get a foothold into North Korean history. I now want to read more about the impact of the Japanese occupation and more details about the cause of North Korea's subsequent economic decline.
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The layout makes it easy to understand. There are 20 chapters and at the back of the book a short introduction to each chapter.
Barbara Demick had travelled to North Korea many times but had always been disappointed that it was difficult to get information from people because they are constantly watched by the security police. In the end she concentrated on speaking to people who had escaped N.K. and settled in China or South Korea. It is obvious that she has spent a huge amount of time speaking to Koreans over more than a decade. She chronicles how some although they have escaped N.K. are still afraid to speak because they have relatives still living under what must be the most inhuman regime in the world.
The famine of the 1990,s is researched in great depth to show how some people started to have doubts about the regime whilst others maintained an absolute faith in “their dear father”.
This is certainly the best book on North Korea that I have come across.
It was gripping and I steamed through it in lightning fashion however that's not to say it was an easy read. It gives you the knowledge you have, the big picture, and then will give you the harsher reality of that picture - breaking the already bleak illusion.
A brilliant nonfiction which should be added to anybody's list looking to try and understand North Korea and it's peoples.
I put this on kindle text to speech as a night time read / listen through & all those in earshot were hooked, open mouthed at some points, (my wife & 13 year old).
Bearing in mind how Trumps new political "dynasty" & the N.Korean 3 generations established dynasty are having a nuclear "p1**ing contest" it is a very in the now read, ...the background on the latest "kim" is interesting.
Starvation features heavily, ..this is life at the hands of a brutal regime, don't expect it to be flowery, it is not.
But one of the things I really liked about this book was the way it was written and structured. It would be difficult for me to really explain what I mean by this without giving away some of the magic, and so I won't attempt to (helpful, I know).
Suffice to say that the stories which Ms Demick tells are poignant, relatable and mostly very, very sad. I'm not someone that will shed a tear easily, but I'll confess that there's a particular story which really did jerk a tear from my eye - and that was on a commute to work at 8 in the morning!
The descriptions are vivid, clear, and authentic because there isn't a particularly strong political message behind it - though of course the stories speak for themselves. But Ms Demick has a way of telling these stories in a way that is both articulate and transparent. It made me thing that this is how stories are supposed to be told - you know there's a narrator, you hear her, but somehow you really don't notice her.
If you're interested in real stories, and especially if you're interested in anything North Korean, I would highly, highly recommend this book. It's an excellent read and I guarantee you will feel touched by it at the end.
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