Nothing to Envy

  • by Barbara Demick
  • Narrated by Karen White
  • 12 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over 15 years - a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung and the unchallenged rise to power of his son, Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population.
Taking us into a landscape never before seen, Demick brings to life what it means to be an average Korean citizen, living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today - an Orwellian world in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, a country that is by choice not connected to the Internet, a society in which outward displays of affection are punished, and a police state that rewards informants and where an offhanded remark can send a citizen to the gulag for life. Demick's subjects - a middle-aged party loyalist and her rebellious daughter, an idealistic female doctor, an orphan, and two young lovers - all hail from the same provincial city in the farthest-flung northern reaches of the country. One by one, we witness the moments of revelation, when each realizes that they have been betrayed by the Fatherland and that their suffering is not a global condition but is uniquely theirs.
Nothing to Envy is the first book about North Korea to go deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors, and penetrate the mind-set of the average citizen. It is a groundbreaking and essential addition to the literature of totalitarianism.


What the Critics Say

"A fascinating and deeply personal look at the lives of six defectors from the repressive totalitarian regime of the Republic of North Korea." (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

One of the Best Books Out There Now

I was a bit skeptic when I first chose this book to listen to but this book became one of those gems that I am glad I took a chance on. It does so many things so very right that I would simply suggest this book to anyone, literally to anyone.

Barbara Demick tells the story of like in North Korea and tell this story through interwoven true life experiences between a handfuls of individuals. The book in its entirety has a very anti-North Korea tone to it and if you are no careful you can easily be caught up into that sort of rhetoric. Keep in mind though that Barbara is simply telling things from persons who have lived and later defected from North Korea so there is some amount of distaste and bitterness from said persons. The author tries her best to not inject too much of such sentiment in her work but coming from her background as a reporter probably, she simply reported what the interviewees wish to have portrayed mostly.

All that being said even if you disagree with the tone of the book itself, it pokes enough in this direction to have you wanting to know more. It pokes at your curiosity in the right places and leaves you asking the right questions opening up this topic for discussion, driving one to actually want to do some research on this topic.

The narration suited well what was being portrayed. I do have some slight qualms with it as I thought the entire book seemed a bit over enunciated. You could hear her breathing in after every sentence it seems. Otherwise the mood and general tone was very much to my liking.

You would enjoy this book, at the time I listened to this (2013) it was current, impressively done, mixing the right amount of facts with an actual story and also highly thought provoking. One of the best books I have listened to in a while.
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- Theodore

The man who wants to be GOD

The author does an excellent job telling the tales of her protagonists wrapped in the totalitarian govt. The most shocking part of the book is when you hear about the measures that this imbecile leader takes to prove that he is GOD when he is not even human.

The things that people around the world take for granted are shown as luxuries in N Korea and sometimes unachievable for a regular citizen. At times, this book can be depressing but it is very informative and educational. The history of Koreas and the past, present of N Korea is very well described in this book.

The narrator was a little annoying at first with her breathing right in the mic. But I got used to it few hours in the book. This book is just too good so I didn't realize after a while how bad the narrator was. But Audible should really audition narrators before they are hired for the job.
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- Gohar

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-29-2009
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio