... a book on the subject which is readable, as up-to-date as possible (North Korea changes fast), and fun to read. Anna Fifield is one of very few western journalists who have been reporting on North Korea — including as a correspondent for the Financial Times — for over a decade ... brims with important and exclusive information about the Kim family and personality of the 'brilliant comrade' himself ... goes beyond the realm of Pyongyang court gossip. Fifield has talked to a number of ordinary North Koreans whose stories create a rich tapestry of life in the country over the past 20 to 30 years as it has evolved from a hyper-Stalinist dictatorship to a very unusual but still distinctly post-socialist country.
Anna Fifield forcefully demonstrates that the North Korean leader is far more savvy, ambitious and ruthless than his ludicrous nicknames suggest. Writing a biography of Kim is a notoriously difficult undertaking. False information abounds, and testimonies of North Korean escapees and refugees can be unreliable. To overcome these hurdles, Fifield has cross-checked a wealth of facts, relied on extensive primary and secondary sources, and engaged in old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting ... The Great Successor is a hard-earned, comprehensive portrait of Kim and his country’s uncertain future ... essential reading for anyone seeking insight on one of the world’s least-understood leaders.
... a welcome addition to the political literature ... Fifield skillfully leverages what little information is available from these years with more gleaned recently ... Through no fault of Fifield's, Kim is instead an object viewed from outside; a creature propelled along by events and his stage managers rather than living among humanity ... Contrary to prevailing stereotypes, in this story Kim is anything but a madman. Cold-blooded for sure, but playing a calculated defensive strategy aimed at standing up his rule ... Fifield offers us intriguing tidbits from Kim's childhood.
... elegantly written and exhaustively researched ... The story Fifield tells, as befits the supreme ruler of a bizarrely unique country, is vivid to say the least ... The deeply weird relationship between the faded hoops legend and the communist despot is the book’s uproarious comic interlude between murders and nuclear bomb making ... Camp farce sits uneasily side by side with the horrors of Kim’s consolidation of control.
... ambitious and surreal ... Outside these few scenes and interviews, however, with their clashes of wealth and terror, The Great Successor falls flat. It is not a full-dress portrait of Kim Jong Un or a reported journey inside his ultra-secret regime. It reads like a chatty succession of newspaper articles—an amalgamation of interviews, photographs and state-media sources—that go around in circles, repeating themselves, jumping between times and places ... As a result, the book lacks the coherent storytelling and psychological insight that propel the best biographies. We learn that Mr. Kim has loved power since childhood, throwing tantrums and bossing around his cook. But we never know for sure what he thinks about economic reform, nuclear weapons or his summits with President Trump. The Supreme Leader is ever-present, yet frustratingly distant ... Ms. Fifield attempts to compensate by accumulating small facts ... With this dearth of first-hand sources, though, Ms. Fifield passes off conjecture as fact ... Ms. Fifield’s effort to write a thorough portrait is admirable under the circumstances. But as long as archives are closed and the regime is standing, it is too early for a biography of this mysterious and impenetrable leader. Ms. Fifield does still report colorful stories, like Dennis Rodman’s absurd and tragic visits.
Anna Fifield’s The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un is required reading to fully appreciate Trump’s bizarre bromance with the young tyrant ... a macabre portrait of a ruling dynasty that has inexplicably survived for seven decades ... If the prose sometimes lags, the reporting is groundbreaking due to Fifield’s dozen or so visits to North Korea and her dogged ability to track down Kim’s childhood playmates, relatives and others around the globe.
A journalist experienced in reporting from Asia penetrates the secrecy of North Korea about as well as humanly possible ... Refreshingly, Fifield avoids the temptation to treat [Kim Jong Un] less than seriously ... Most of Fifield’s sources have justified reasons to despise the North Korean family dynasty, but her strong journalism skills allow her to separate the wheat from the chaff of biased sources. At times, she brings herself into the narrative, but she does so judiciously ... Fifield is also good at explaining the personal obsessions that define Kim Jong Un’s dual-level dictatorship, with the top level reserved for the North Korean supporters upon whom he has bestowed lavish wealth ... A compelling mix of biography, cultural history, and political intrigue.