Monday, April 27, 2015

Second Reading of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

If you had asked, I would have said I read Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick last year, maybe two years ago. I see from my March 2011 review, I'm losing track of time. I also thought I remembered the book very well. In rereading I recalled a few stories, but many I did not. Almost a new reader, I read again with concern about the lives of six people who escaped the poverty of the totalitarian regime of North Korea.

The reason for the second reading was a book club commitment. I was happy the title was chosen because I remembered it being quite moving. I was gratified that the book group had such an engaging discussion. Several people had also made an effort to research the current affairs in North Korea, not something that usually happens for the discussion.

I was surprised on rereading that the escape stories came very late in the book and were a smaller part of the story than I recalled. I think I had mentally injected part of another book, the novel The Ginseng Hunter by Jeff Talarigo into Demick's account. The focus of Nothing to Envy is really the hard life in North Korea and the difficulties of adjusting to life in South Korea.

The phrase "nothing to envy" comes from a North Korean propaganda song.

I recommend the title to other book groups.

Demick, Barbara. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. Spiegel and Grau, 2010. ISBN 9780385523905.

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