Book Review: Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

Overall Rating: 5.00/5.00
Do I recommend: Yes

I just finished this book a moment ago, and all I can say is “wow…” I am no stranger to the plight of North Korea and its relations with the rest of the world, as East Asia is a huge interest of mine. That is one reason why I picked up this book. Since I love South Korea, I wanted a better picture of the North, and this book was the perfect place to get it.

Demick profiles 6 North Korean defectors, spinning their tales as if she had been present for them herself. She also includes tidbits from the lives of other North Koreans, as well as plenty of facts and statistics from various reputable organizations. This book is truly gripping, heartbreaking, and impossible to walk away from without thinking about what you’ve read. It will also make you extremely thankful for all that you have.

We all know, more or less, how bad the situation is in North Korea. However, many of us are lacking in the details of just how bad it is, and how unfortunate the citizens are. They are brainwashed so badly they don’t even realize how poorly they are being treated. There are, of course, some who figure it out, and these are usually the defectors. Even after they seek asylum in South Korea, there are still many problems defectors face while trying to adjust to a completely foreign world. Demick goes into detail about not only the defectors lives in North Korea but also how they managed to escape and how they fared after their arrival in South Korea.

The book is very well-researched and extremely well-written. It is easy to follow and understand, even though it switches between multiple families and their stories. Anyone can read this book and learn from it, even if the reader knows nothing about Asia in general or North Korea specifically. Demick takes care to give ample details and make the stories entertaining. By profiling real defectors, she makes the North Korean struggle so human for readers; you can really feel the stories affecting your emotions, and they will stick with you after you are finished reading, causing you to mull them over time and time again.

In short, it’s a wonderfully written and thoroughly informative book, and I think everyone should read it. Too many people are ignorant about North Korea in general, but the world is especially ignorant to the real, human struggles of the regular North Korean citizens. Read it, think about it, and keep its lessons with you. I have no complaints about this book.