WRITING STYLE: 3.5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4.5/5
November is supposed to be the month that one reads non-fiction. Unfortunately, though, I did not read even single non-fiction. To make up for the loss and also because I really was in a mood for the genre, I picked up a lot of non-fiction books in December.
Amongst the many that I read three were my absolute favourites and worth a mention here. These are Palestine by Joe Sacco, Being Reshma by Reshma Qureshi and A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa.
A River in Darkness is a book that left me wondering about the madness that this world is still full of. It was a sad and eye-opening read for me; one that I would definitely urge every book lover to read.
Read on to know about my thoughts on the book.
What is the book all about?
It is essentially a memoir which talks about the life journey of Masaji Ishikawa who is one of the very few lucky people to have escaped the hell hole that is North Korea.
The author documents his early life as a child when he used to live in Japan. He then talks at length about how he came to reside in North Korea and the many tortures, atrocities and extreme poverty that he lived in there.
Finally, he traces his escape from North Korea to the safe haven of Japan.
It is a one-of-a-kind memoir that documents the brutal life of a North Korean.
Why this memoir?
I would definitely recommend this book to my readers especially those who love memoirs, who enjoy political reads and are interested in non-fiction.
Not many people know about North Korea and the horrors that are committed within its borders in the name of the “Juche ideology” and in the name of total submission to its rulers.
This book will be an eye-opening and informative read for anyone who decides to pick it up. Just the fact that such a place still exists in the 21st-century itself is sufficient to give anyone a nightmare.
The grim picture of North Korea
The author tells us a lot about how, at first, North Korea relied heavily upon propaganda to appeal to Koreans living all over the world to come and live in the heaven on Earth.
Masaji Ishikawa, who was born to a South Korean father and a Japanese mother, was one of the many victims of this propaganda.
Since his father wasn’t doing well in Japan, he decided to shift base to North Korea where it was promised that they will be given free house, free education and a lot more incentives to live a pleasurable life.
Forget pleasure; the moment they arrived there, they realized that they have committed the biggest blunder of their life.
What follows is not just troublesome but an extremely graphic and horrendous account of the 36 years that the author lived in North Korea.
Is the author candid and frank?
When it comes to talking about everything under the sun, the author is frank and candid right from the very start.
He never shies away from disclosing personal and gruesome details about his own experience in North Korea. He isn’t afraid of letting the cat out of the bag, but one reason for this may be that he has changed his name since his escape.
Masaji Ishikawa is his Japanese pen name which is different from the one that he was known by in North Korea.
According to many online speculations, he will probably remain away from the public eye until his family is also rescued from the hell hole that is North Korea.
Though it’s been 23 years since he devised his own escape, the chances of rescuing his remaining family remain slim at the most. Let’s hope that he will one day be united with his loved ones.
What about the writing style?
A River in Darkness was originally published in Japanese in the year 2000. It was later translated into English by Risa Kobayashi and Martin Brown.
The book uses a language that is simple and very easy to understand. The sentences are uncomplicated and devoid of any fancy words.
The focus of the book is not on waxing eloquence but on sharing the horrifying story of the author with as many people as possible. Hence, the book can be easily read by beginners.
It all boils down to the entertainment quotient
Entertainment quotient is the last thing that one should look for while picking this book. I say this because it is such an intense and heart-rendering read that anyone who decides to pick it up will be compelled to read it till the end.
If this should be taken as a measure of entertainment, then I think yes, this book definitely had me hooked and therefore is entertaining.
Pick up the book if
- You enjoy nonfiction.
- You like memoirs, biographies and autobiographies.
- You like political reads.
- You want to read about something that is so ugly that it is unbelievable.
Skip the book if
- You don’t like memoirs.
- You don’t enjoy simple reads.
- Translated memoirs are not really your thing.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of A River in Darkness using the link below.