An extraordinary insight into life under one of the world's most ruthless and secretive dictatorships - and the story of one woman's terrifying struggle to avoid capture/repatriation and guide her family to freedom.
As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by a secretive and brutal communist regime. Her home on the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom, and, as the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and realise that she had been brainwashed her entire life.
Given the repression, poverty and starvation she witnessed, surely her country could not be, as she had been told "the best on the planet".
Aged 17, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be 12 years before she was reunited with her family.
She could not return, since rumours of her escape were spreading, and she and her family could incur the punishments of the government authorities - involving imprisonment, torture and possible public execution.
Hyeonseo instead remained in China and rapidly learned Chinese in an effort to adapt and survive. And 12 years and two lifetimes later, she would return to the North Korean border in a daring mission to spirit her mother and brother to South Korea on one of the most arduous, costly and dangerous journeys imaginable.
This is the unique story not only of Hyeonseo's escape from the darkness into the light but also of her coming of age and education and the resolve she found to rebuild her life - not once but twice - first in China then in South Korea. Strong, brave and eloquent, this memoir is a triumph of her remarkable spirit.
©2015 Hyeonseo Lee (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers Limited
"The most riveting TED talk ever." (Oprah)
"This is a powerful story of an escapee from North Korea. In the hallowed meeting rooms of the United Nations in New York, ambassadors from North Korea recently sought to shout down stories like this. But these voices will not be silenced. Eventually freedom will be restored. History will vindicate Hyeonseo Lee and those like her for the risks they ran so that their bodies and their minds could be free. And so that we could know the truth." (Michael Kirby, chair of the UN commission on human rights abuses in North Korea)
"When I first met Hyeonseo Lee, the unflinching manner in which she told her story was inspirational. She experienced hunger, coldness, fear, terror, threats and pursuit. All this she had to endure, simply for being a North Korean refugee. But the one thing that she held on to was her humanity, ever stronger as she continuously sublimated her hardships into hope. This is a sad and beautiful story of a girl who could not even keep her name, yet overcome all with the identity of what it is to be human." (Jang Jin-sung, author of Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee - A Look Inside North Korea)
I've often wondered what it must be like for the people of North Korea, after seeing coverage on TV of mass performances, marches, hysteria and weeping - alongside stories of what seemed to be a complete and utter lack of human rights for anyone other than those at the very top. I have to admit that I also wondered whether North Koreans' apparent love for their Leader was genuine (and if so why) - or if they were simply too afraid to show their real feelings. Hyeonseo Lee's book answered all those questions, and many more that hadn't even occurred to me before. I just couldn't stop listening, and was alternately amazed, shocked, uplifted, fascinated, horrified and full of awe throughout her story - which documents her childhood in North Korea, her pretty much accidental defection to China, and her incredible struggle to survive thereafter. It's an incredible story of oppression, fight for survival, widespread corruption and bribery, occasional kindness of strangers, and long struggle to help her mother and brother escape from North Korea too. Hyeonseo Lee is one courageous, tenacious and intelligent lady, and I am full of admiration for her and her story - beautifully narrated by Josie Dunn. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone!
I've always been interested in North Korea, but this is my first book. Someone had recommended one to me about a male defector, but I wanted to hear a woman's story. I was a bit unsure of the narrator at the start but soon got used to it and grew to really like her voice.
It was a really gripping book and I thought the fact that she is not necessarily the most likeable person made everything feel more real.
I binged listened over a few days and have also
played parts to my family as some of her experiences in North Korea were so astonishing, I wanted to share them.
Definitely worth a listen if you love drama but prefer non-fiction.
This book is heart warming, stressful and exciting.
It provides facinating incite into North Korea, and there people's plight. But also the strength of human character.
I absolutely loved everything about this book! The story, the narrator and the production.
I will not ruin the story for you! I will just say: if you love biographies like me, stories of survival and defiance, this book is for you.
Wow, again another book about North Korea that I couldn't stop listening too.
What a brave girl. An amazing story and well worth the listen.
This book was an epic adventure into the unknown a true master piece and life changer. My eyes have been opened to the meaning of family and friendship and how unfairly people are treated. I feel truly inspired but ashamed of the world for letting these atrocities continue this day in age. Thank you for sharing your life it must of been hard to open up.
'The Girl With Seven Names ' is an amazing, eye opening and well written story. Very captivating ! This book has really changed my perspective; I definitely recommend reading it.
Years ago we had a Voice of the Martyrs guest at church tell us about the life of the North Korean people! I was so ignorant of their suffering, especially of the Christians! I have sense read many stories of defections as well as a few fictional books about the Christian sufferings there! This story is amazing but true! Please share and discuss! Expose more and more people to the truth about North Korea but most importantly, Pray! Only God can change their government and heal Korea as a whole country!
this was an amazing story! the only think that threw me was the European accent of the narrator; it initially annoyed me considering this is the story of a Korean woman, however she is very clear and not dull. great book!!!
SPOILERS: Since living in South Korea (ROK), I've grown an affinity for books on North Korea (DPRK). This is a decent book on the subject. It doesn't give a lot of detail on life in North Korea during the "difficult times" but the author describes scenes and memories no child should.
Even Lee's escape from North Korea isn't a big deal. She simply tells a border guard she's going across. It was completely unplanned. Her escape from China to Shanghai was also uneventful. Lee just takes a flight. There are others who have much more grueling escapes. However, there is no doubt that it is an absolute challenge to do what she did and there is nothing to take away from that!
SPOILER: The author describing the man that hit his head after riding under the train and cracking his skull; just unimaginable but so nonchalant for the people at the time.
Distracting, not researched
How far would you go for family?
The British accent on Dunn's performance is somewhat distracting as an American listener. It is very strong and nothing that I would expect a North Korean to sound like. It slightly takes away from the story.
The other issue is that the producers must of have done little research into how to pronounce the names in the book. Having lived in Seoul, Shanghai and traveled through Laos, dated a Laotian; it is mind-numbing to listen to half of these simple pronunciations.
I am no stickler for languages, but the names are so simple. The reader even gets the author's name wrong; pronouncing it Yeonseo with a "y" instead of Hyeonseao with an "hy". I mean: that's the author's name, how do you not research how to say that?!
Other names that I can remember that were pronounced incorrectly: Pyongyang, Harbin (city in China), Laos( The country had no "s" sound, although the author pronounced the language as "Lao" instead of Laotian, the normal nomenclature, but mispronounced the country.) Vientiane (The capital of Laos). She did however pronounce Shanghai correctly, perhaps because of her British accent of a short "ah" sound to shang.
All of that really took me out of the story from time to time. The author also mocks male characters, usually "bad" ones that are Korean or Chinese military guards or police. These accents are borderline cockney and just bizarre. She also mocks an American boyfriend of Lee's and that is just awful.
So, in short, at least as an American, the strong British accent just really seems wrong and does take away from the story from time to time.
"One of the greatest books I've ever read"
The story of people from North Korea is outstanding. It is hard to believe that at this present time there are still countries run by dictators.
I hardly ever give a book 5 stars and this is my first review but this book is unbelievable, I could barely put it down. This book is a page turner and even though you know the outcome, your heart pounds as you read her journey and that of her family. It is sad at times but overall, an empowering story of strength.
I was fascinated by the struggles and perseverance of this family to discover what life could offer outside North Korea. How brave! I also loved the accent and expressive tone of the narrator.
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