Most people want out of North Korea. Wendy Simmons wanted in.
In My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, Wendy shares a glimpse of North Korea as it's never been seen before. Even though it's the scariest place on Earth, somehow Wendy forgot to check her sense of humor at the border. But Wendy's initial amusement and bewilderment soon turned to frustration and growing paranoia. Before long she learned the essential conundrum of "tourism" in North Korea: Travel is truly a love affair. But, just like love, it's a two-way street. And North Korea deprives you of all this. They want you to fall in love with the singular vision of the country they're willing to show you and nothing more.
Through poignant, laugh-out-loud essays, Wendy chronicles one of the strangest vacations ever. Along the way she bares all while undergoing an inner journey as convoluted as the country itself.
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Lots of swearing.
This book was entertaining and a chance to hear from someone who visited North Korea. But, there are better memoirs if you want to find out personal experiences of North Koreans. Escape from Camp 14, Aquariums of Pyongyang, Dear Leader, Under the Same Sky, Stars Between the Sun and Moon.
Her language was unnecessary.
Yes, although her voice was quite sarcastic in tone. I welcomed the other characters' voices for the relief from listening to her narrating the author's words. I hope Ms Simmons doesn't always sound that way.
Although I can handle the language Ms. Simmons used, it didn't really need to be in there to make the book interesting, on the contrary, it was distracting and grated on me. Her story was interesting enough. I had to make sure my children were not in earshot of my listening to it. Too many times she barked out the F bomb and a few others, not so offensive, but still totally unnecessary. I wish the audio sample would have included her language in it, just for informative reasons.
Hilarious Yet Real
Simultaneously hilarious and sad. You can't help but laugh out loud at the paradoxical nature of the country and it was interesting to see things from the perspective of a curious westerner (unlike most books about North Korea which are written by or about DPRK defectors). With her first world perspective being so similar to my own it felt as if I was actually there with her, which made it even more hilarious because her reactions and responses were so similar to my own as I read. I also like the way she researched the nonsense they told her and matter-of-factly dropped side notes of the actual truths throughout the book.
Fresh handler was my favorite character. Her innocence in comparison to other characters such as older handler was refreshing. She wasn't completely consumed by the propaganda and seemed genuinely interested in the outside world
Personality. She gave emotion to each line of the book allowing me to feel the emotions from sarcasm to confusion of Ms. Simmons as she told her story
I laughed a lot. But underneath each laugh was a somber reality that is North Korea
Unfortunately, despite her hilariously entertaining accounts of her experience, it is impossible to avoid coming back to the reality that this is life for North Koreans and they don't have other options. They are prisoners in their own homes and what we are allowed to see and laugh about in this book is the "good", choreographed side of the country, the rest is far worse and the strong desire to want to help them will inevitably sneak up on you at the end of every page. Nevertheless, she does a great job of depicting the Kim regime's big bad propaganda machine.