Saturday, November 15, 2014

O.o.O.C: "Nothing to Envy" by Barbara Demick

Out of Orbit Critiques (O.o.O.C.) are on books not in my usual genres that I review about once a month. This book is nonfiction.

As a child, I was constantly admonished: "Finish your plate Talitha, there are children starving in China." Little did I know at the time, that that particular honor is more suitable for the people of North Korea.

I heard about Nothing to Envy during the Travel the World in Books Readathon's Twitter chat, and was instantly intrigued. North Korea is probably one of the most mysterious places on Earth: what snippets of news that are leaked out often become headlines. What lies behind the fences and facades of the country. which often presents itself with massive choreographed performances?

The Plot:
Journalist Barbara Demick is assigned to cover the Koreas for the Los Angeles Times, a difficult proposition. Where South Korea is relatively easy to report on, North Korea only allows journalists accompanied by watchers to enter the country. It's clear she has little access to real stories of real people inside the country, so she turns instead to those few who have managed to leave. What follows the prologue are incredible feats of survival and life in a truly 'dystopian' society.

One of the most interesting parts of this book to me was the fact that North Korea actually does get news from the outside world- but only the bad news. The title for this book is so apt because of that- North Koreans are told they have "Nothing to envy" of the outside world. Journalism is also the most highly regarded field in North Korea, which is kind of ironic.

Another fascinating thing is that North Koreans regard their original 'Great Leader' as a god. When Kim Il-sung died, it was the equivalent of 9/11 in the American mind- everyone remembered where they were when they heard the news. Devastating would be an understatement- earth-shattering is more like it. Although they were expected to revere his son just as much, nothing and no one could compare to their 'Great Leader'.

When I finished the book, I realized I'd probably have to include some spoilers in my review, because some of the things boggled my mind that I have to blab about. I saw some other reviewers on Goodreads also used them without the spoiler brackets, so here goes:

***Mild Spoilers Within***

The dogs in China are better fed than the doctors in North Korea. True story.

My favorite person in the book, Jun-sang, was highly educated in North Korea and managed to get his hands on banned Western books. His favorite? Gone With the Wind. When he eventually got out, he said 1984 was very close to what life was actually like in North Korea. Hence I tagged this post 'Dystopia'.

***End Spoilers***

Nothing to Envy is a major wake-up call for those of us who think life isn't easy or fair and happen to live outside North Korea. Our lives in general are very easy compared with somewhere where color is used only for propaganda and if you don't starve to death, the cold winters may also kill you. If you've ever wondered what it's like to live in North Korea, this book is for you.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars for a glimpses of daily life in mysterious North Korea.

Content: Ages 16+ for descriptions of extreme suffering and hunger.

Page Count: 296 pages in my paperback version.

Thanks again to Aloi of Guiltless Reader for hosting a giveaway that won me this book!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel Free to Express Yourself:
Agree? Disagree? Have something to add?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...