Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years — a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, 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 most of us have never before seen, Barbara Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today — an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, and where displays of affection are punished; a police state where informants are rewarded and where an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life.
Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors. Through meticulous and sensitive reporting, we see her six subjects — average North Korean citizens — fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we experience the moments when they realize that their government has betrayed them.
This is an outstanding work of narrative nonfiction that offers a never-before-seen view of a country and society largely unknown to the rest of the world. With remarkable detail and through a deeply personal look at the lives of six defectors from the repressive totalitarian regime of the Republic of North Korea, Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime in the world today.
The reader will find it heartbreaking, pitiful and with every page turn wish it not true.