Book Review: Nothing to Envy – Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick


Before I read this book, I thought I was reasonably well-versed with North Korean knowledge. I’d read a few memoirs, articles, and seen videos over the years all about North Korea. Yet, Barbara Demick proved just how badly I needed to read this book.

I discovered so much about North Korea through this book. The sad thing is, I don’t think we’ll ever know every single detail that occurs in such a secretive country. I say it every time I’ve finished a book, article or video about North Korea, but it’s hard to believe that a country like this exists in today’s day and age. It is truly a real-life Orwellian nightmare.

I didn’t know that, in North Korea, most people don’t die from starvation alone. They die because they are so desperate to eat that they add grass, twigs, and goodness knows what else into their soups and noodles simply to fill their empty stomachs. They die because even a simple virus like the common cold can kill them because their bodies are so weak and susceptible to even the most common of diseases.

Young mothers who are newly married and on the brink of starting their lives, through sheer desperation to feed their hungry children, are forced into prostitution. Female students battling with the most common call of nature, their menstrual cycle, are not even afforded the luxury of sanitary products.

These are just a few of the horrifying details that I discovered about ordinary lives in North Korea, and I’m grateful that writers like Barbara Demick are around to expose them.

A great, important read that everyone should pick up.

Buy the book here.

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