The book follows the lives of several actual people from North Korea as they lived through the great famines of the 1990's and eventually were able to escape to South Korea. The book reveals a place that make Orwell's books look tame.
The book is unsettling, but shows a reality that exists for over 20 million people that is surreal and awful and unimaginable, as they inhabit the largest prison on earth - if prison's played horrific mind games in addition to imprisoning people. In spite of the horrors of Iraq under Hussein and Libya under Ghaddafy, many people lived fairly normal lives in those places that were liberated at great cost and bloodshed. No one in North Korea, except the Great Leader and his immediate minions, lives a life that is anything other than a gut wrenching nightmare. I must admit to scratching my head that no one has taken the North Korean regime out. I much engage Google to discover how much oil there is north of the DMZ.
North Korea is one of the most fascinating places on earth, in a Frankenstein monster sort of a way.
"What if the nightmare imagined by George Orwell in 1984 were real? What if you had to live in a country where radio dials were fixed to a single government station? Where the surroundings were entirely black-and-white except for the red lettering of the propaganda signs? Where you were required to keep a large portrait of the president on your living room wall and bow to it on national holidays? Where sexuality was repressed except for purposes of reproduction? Where spies like Orwell’s Thought Police studied your facial expressions during political rallies to make sure you were sincere not only in your speech but your thoughts?
This is a real place – the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea or North Korea. The Communist regime that has controlled the northern half of the Korean peninsula since 1945 might be the most totalitarian of modern world history.
George Polk Award and Robert F. Kennedy Award-Winning Journalist Barbara Demick’s NOTHING TO ENVY: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (Spiegel & Grau; On Sale December 29, 2009) offers a never-before-seen view of a country and society largely unknown to the rest of the world."