Book Club of the month: April 2013


Meet our book club of the month, Desperate Readers as they review 'Nothing to Envy' a book that delves into the lives of North Koreans.


We first met in 2003 at the Gym! The name “Desperate Readers” sprang from a desire to read. Some wanted to read more but found it difficult to make the time, some wanted to start reading on a regular basis, others were keen to know what to read.

Overtime we have read many genres that individually we would never have considered or persisted with if the group did not exist. We meet every month, over lunch and champagne and have grown to know each other better through a mutual desire to listen, share and discuss different opinions and experiences from our readings. This has also led us as a group to join together and support each other with various not for profit events or programs that we come across in our daily lives.


In Nothing to Envy the author, Barabara Demick, follows the lives of six people: a couple of
teenaged lovers courting in secret, an idealistic woman doctor,  a
homeless boy, a model factory worker who loves Kim Il Sung more than her
own family and her rebellious daughter.


Michelle Fitzgerald

Nothing to Envy is an insight into a country so unfamiliar to ours. Ruled since 1948 by a succession of 3 communist leaders from the one family, Barbara Demick shares the lives of 6 ordinary North Korean citizens. This combined with her thorough research of this strange country pull together in a seamless account of the real life horrors these people have endured. The author takes us through the ups and downs of her subjects experiencing a whole range of emotions from love, survival and betrayal. I loved this book. It has the rare dual benefit of being a great read as well as being informative. Highly recommended!

Sue Scrimshaw

Even though I knew life in North Korea was tough it was not until I read this book

that I realised how sad and desperate the people’s lives are.   The structure of their

society and the constant brainwashing by the totalitarian regime is eerily similar to

the one described in George Orwell’s fictional 1984.  This is a very important book

that everyone should read.

Di Falloon

Barbara Demick’s “Nothing to Envy” came as a real surprise to me.  I knew very little about North Korea and was instantly drawn to the satellite photo of lights in South Korea and a “black hole” representing North Korea at night.  The people have been brainwashed and endured much hardship and famine under the leadership of Kim II-sun and his son.  If only they knew!!

Alison Murray

At times it reads like a documentary, at others like a captivating novel but without doubt, ‘Nothing to Envy’ provides a fascinating and often confronting insight into the lives of the people of North Korea.

Whilst providing an historically accurate summary of a particularly challenging period in North Korea, Barbara Demick also manages to provide a most vivid insight into what it was like to live under this oppressive regime, portrayed through the lives of 6 diverse, yet ordinary people.

Carolyn McLean

After reading “Nothing to Envy” I was embarrassed how little I knew of the condition people were living in, in North Korea.   I was stunned to see how many people loved their leader and how they had no problem obeying him. Existing in these terrible conditions and not wanting to leave even though their family and friends around them were perishing. It was an interesting book giving us a fabulous insight to part of our world we all know is there but I now realise we are ignoring.  

Rose Braude

What an eye opener this book is! The unusual behaviour of North Korea on the world stage is now understandable. On a more human level the tragedy that is the lives of everyday North Koreans is logically and graphically portrayed with personal stories from those who have defected. The lengths that the regime has gone to and the extent of their success at brain washing is frightening and shows how strong the human spirit is.  The book starts slowly but persistence is well rewarded.

Suzanne Kluver

Bravo Barbara Demick, “a tell all” book that exposes the most brutal regime in the world today! Demick’s hard line investigative  approach gives a chilling account of the inhumane hardships experienced by ordinary North Korean people at the hands of a mad man. Many parts will shock you however the author does try to humanise the book by including a love story… was sweet. Easy to read, the book was not only enjoyable but also educational.


Clare Thomas

The human race is an extraordinary character made up from two extremes….one which is very foreign to me. Demick has focused on the real, yet horrifying issues present in North Korea today. The blind obedience, brainwashing and dismal leadership is an eye opener and one that any reader would question.  The lives of the 6 individuals is shocking however it does give the reader a clear insight into the perplexed circumstances of life in a country ruled by a Dictator. 

Jackie Taylor

With North Koreas “military first’ attitude is it any wonder that the United Nations has recently opted for tough economic sanctions to be applied to this over regulated nation?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Barbara Demick’s “Nothing To Envy” and I have a much improved understanding of this totalitarian regime. How can a country, with a population estimated at  22million people, deny its impoverished people basic human rights?

Why is access to food, electricity, education, communication, healthcare and much much more being rationed beyond belief when the Ruling Party spends enormous sums of money  building up its military and Nuclear Might?


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