Star of the North is an incredibly relevant story; it tells the tale of three people, connected through North Korea, whilst the country is on the verge of war with America. The book is raw, thrilling & totally captivating, & I bloody well enjoyed it.
I was sent this book by Harvill Secker in return for an honest review.
This book contains extreme human suffering, murder, very detailed torture, discussions of rape, extreme violence & starvation throughout.
I was so fully engaged in this book that I wrote hardly any notes to aide me in my review writing, so you’ll need to bare with me if I’m a little out of sorts. But… seriously… THIS BOOK.
North Korea vs America is a hot topic right now; a lot of people are watching to see which of the country’s leaders will pop first, & many people fear we’re on the verge of World War 3. Star of the North definitely focuses on these issues – one of the three protagonists is right at the heart of the American government, whilst another is part of the very tight-knit entourage that serve the Kim family. But, & this is a big but (& a very important one), this book also looks at the squalor & totally inhumane conditions most of the North Korean people are forced to endure on a day-to-day basis. The main word I would use to describe this book is raw, & it’s painful. But it’s damn good too.
Instead of focusing on the specific plot of this book, I really want to talk about all the issues that are addressed throughout it. Due to the three protagonists that D. B. John has created for this story we get to see three very different perspectives of North Korea; the first is that of an outsider – our American that’s trying to save her sister, who for years she has believed dead. Jenna’s perspective is not the same as your everyday outsider as Jenna is half-Korean, so she does have some understanding of Korean history & politics… but she isn’t North Korean, so when this story starts, she doesn’t truly understands the horrors of the Kims’ rule.
Our second protagonist is a character who, at the start of the book, has full faith in the Kim dynasty – Cho’s family are high up in the well-thought-of families in North Korea; he & his wife are of “good stock”… at least that’s what Cho thinks before a background check into his birth family is carried out. When the truth of Cho’s roots are revealed his perspective on The Great Successor Kim Jong-un changes rapidly & readers get to see how much evil the Kim family can commit when they really don’t want someone around.
The final protagonist is Mrs Moon; a woman with a foggy past that is now working her hardest to keep her & her husband from starving to death. A lot of the chapters on Mrs Moon reminded me of In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park – the true story of how Yeonmi broke free from the Kim regime – & D. B. John has done a very good job of portraying what the real North Korea is like. From Mrs Moon’s perspective we get to see how the people of North Korea are treated on a daily basis – & how a lot of these people come to an end.
In one way or another these three characters end up crossing paths – & not in a pretty way. Although this book ends on a somewhat positive note, the end of the story is also harrowing & full of suspense. From the ending I can safely assume that there will be a sequel to this book, which I’m absolutely thrilled about, but this book on it’s own tells a damn good story itself. Star of the North is an adventure, & the book is definitely a thriller, but it’s also eye-opening & educational, & one that I wish everyone would read so they would start focusing on the people of North Korea, rather than Kim Jong-un’s ridiculous hair style.
A lot of this book is based on fact; what is & what isn’t is neatly discussed at the back of the book (but don’t read that first because it’s full of spoilers), so when you read it & scoff at the ridiculousness – remember, it’s all fucking true. This book is set up to be a classic & I’m sure it’ll be read in classrooms in the very near future.
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