The Indian Reading Duo Book Review 🇮🇳📚
Book– Girl with seven names:A North Korean Defector’s Story
Author– Hyeonseo Lee with David John
Published– 2015 by Collins
The book started slowly, interesting nonetheless and caught pace only after the first 25%.
I had absolutely no clue about lives in South and North Korea, the kind of animosity they share till date, the plight of North Koreans who are treated with utmost ruthlessness by a regime of dictatorship, the difficulties they face in living normal lives, the fact that they have been brainwashed to such an extent that they have forgotten that they have a free world outside. Most of the defectors have tried to escape for the want of food and to escape drought and famine from a country which claims to be the most prosperous and beautiful in the world to its citizens. None of them escaped for freedom because they knew nothing of that sort. I just cannot bring myself to imagine a country like that, let alone live in one. Hyeonseo’s story taught me how I and people of my country take this precious freedom for granted and how there are worlds beyond ours which are still sustaining under tyrannical rulers.
The book takes us through Hyeonseo’s childhood, her life in North Korea as a kid, her curiosities which took over the power from her and led her across the border on the opposite side, into China, at the age of 17 and how a trip which was supposedly of 5-6 days turned into a nightmare and changed her entire life. The corrupt bureaucracies that relied their decisions only on generous bribes, the pain of hiding and changing the identity in order to fugitively cross the borders of countries, the identity crisis that followed as an aftermath, the struggle to get everything back – this story of Hyeonseo depicts the powerless situation of thousands of defectors who cross borders to find a solution to their gnawing stomachs and are in turn deceived and tortured while only a few manage to escape without being wrecked.
The story is inspiring, Hyeonseo’s will and determination to survive is beyond reckoning and at the same time there is a melancholy truth that the masks these defectors have had to wear half their lives shall stay with them lifelong. They would have to abandon their birth names and memories in order to survive in a country that has sheltered them but can never make them her own. The unsettling irony is Hyeonseo had to just travel 300 miles towards her freedom from North Korea to South Korea but it took years together for her to reach there.
This story is definitely a must-read – not just for the way it has been written, but also because it is a story of freedom, of tyranny, of kindness of strangers, of ignorance and most of all – of tremendous hope.