In Escape From Camp 14, Blaine Harden unlocks the secrets of the world’s most repressive totalitarian state through the story of Shin’s shocking imprisonment and his astounding getaway. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence—he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his mother and brother.
Escape from Camp 14 offers an unequalled inside account of one of the world’s darkest nations. It is a tale of endurance and courage, survival and hope.
Rating:4 / 5
Review:This will probably be a relatively short review considering the nature of this book. There isn't exactly much to "review" or critique here - Escape From Camp 14 is a factual journalistic account of Shin Dong-hyuk's life and escape from a North Korean labor camp. There are no frills added by author, Blaine Harden which is fitting given the solemn tone of the story. Given how rare a personal story like this is coming from behind the nation's walls of secrecy, it seems imperative to read if you have any interest whatsoever in global affairs. I was astounded by not only Shin's bravery throughout his story, but by his willingness to come forward and share such intimate details of his life with the public. He's truly remarkable and my heart goes out to him and any others facing these nightmares each day.
All I can really say is - this book is going to stick with you.
-North Korea Ready to Start Nuclear Talks
-Did North Korea really admit to its horrific forced labor camps? Not exactly.
-In Kim Jong-un’s Absence, Rumors About Him Swirl in North Korea
-Japanese women who have escaped from North Korea find little sympathy at home
Final Thoughts: Read this. Learn. Understand.
Rating: 3.5 - 4 / 5
Review: Coming in at a little over 700 pages, Anna Karenina felt like quite a journey by the ending. It took me a little over a month (while reading comics in between) to get through this one and I'm definitely feeling the sadness of being separated from the characters after so long. I've been writing up this review on and off all day because I'm not sure how to summarize a piece as large as this. The two elements that stuck out to me the most were the larger thematic topics the book broached (relationships, gender, family, class issues etc.) and the political commentary of the time/location. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that a good portion of the political discussion went right over my head. Don't get me wrong - there are parts that are easy to follow despite having no background information - but there were large paragraphs where I had to concede my lack of understanding. Despite this, I was very drawn in throughout the majority of the book. The books sections take on a third-person perspective from each character's point of view which shifts the narration tone a bit with each voice. As might be assumed, the pieces from the titular character were the most interesting for me.
The book felt split primarily between the lives of Anna and her lover, Vronsky, and their distantly related acquaintances Levin and Kitty. Anna lives a much more liberal and upper-class lifestyle (due to her decision to leave her husband and child for Vronsky) while Levin and Kitty have a slow-paced, more traditional marriage running the family farm. I especially enjoyed scenes in which the women's lives were juxtaposed amongst one another - particularly because their interactions (the 'whore' vs the 'madonna') still somehow felt deeply relevant to our current society. I'm still amazed at how little our interactions and roles have changed despite how far off these characters seem from my own life. Levin, who is an obvious stand-in for Tolstoy, while not awful is a bit on the dull side and has some very long-winded passages.
If you consider yourself a writer or an avid reader, this book is worth your time if only to study Tolstoy's mastery of language. And I'm sure I was still missing some of the depth due to subtleties being lost in the translation. Each scene, no matter how simple and mundane was lovely to read and incredibly easy to get lost in. I was surprised to find the depth and humanity that Tolstoy gave to his female characters. I felt they were represented sympathetically and fairly the majority of the time - although I thought the ending was extremely rushed and did not give Anna (or any of the other ladies, to be fair) her due. I was really loving the book the majority of the way through, and it would have earned a solid 4 from me had it not ended as unresolved as it did. The amount of time given to Levin at the end vs. Anna and her family seemed self-indulgent and not as carefully planned as the rest of the book. Perhaps it was done for a reason that I'm not understanding, but I wanted more of a resolution after dedicating so much time to the story.
Final Thoughts: I have a feeling the average reader will find this a struggle to get through - but it's written beautifully and is overall well done. For readers and writers it's a must - for everyone else it really depends on your level of interest when it comes to realistic fiction and how much time you're willing to spend on one book.
I had the pleasure of spending a few days of my summer in North Carolina's Outer Banks with my boyfriend and his family. It was about a 10 hour ride to get from New York to our destination - and although the end result was quite fun I don't know that I'd necessarily be willing to take such a long drive in one shot again. I'm always a little scared to bring our camera onto the beach because I don't want sand to get into anything, but I decided to brave it on this trip and I'm pretty happy with the results. I hope you enjoy some of the shots I took!