This winner of the the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and National Book Award finalist follows the lives of six North Koreans over 15 years—a chaotic period that saw the unchallenged rise to power of Kim Jong Il and the devastation of a famine that killed one-fifth of the population.
There's a simple way to determine how well a journalist has reported a story, internalized the details, seized control of the narrative and produced good work. When you read the result, you forget the journalist is there. Barbara Demick...has aced that test in Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, a clear-eyed and deeply reported look at one of the world's most dismal places ... Still, people survive. They dream. They love. And, sometimes, they escape. It is these stories that Demick tells in dispassionate, haunting detail.
Rich in context and detail, the book provides a riveting account ... The careful objectivity of its author makes this compulsively readable, intimate story of fear, conformity, starvation, and flight all the more moving.
Demick’s bracing chronicle of the horrific consequences of decades of brutality provide the context for the wrenching life stories of North Korean defectors who confided in Demick ... Strongly written and gracefully structured, Demick’s potent blend of personal narratives and piercing journalism vividly and evocatively portrays courageous individuals and a tyrannized state within a saga of unfathomable suffering punctuated by faint glimmers of hope.