A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa

A River in Darkness

An Amazon Charts Most Read and Most Sold book.The harrowing true story of one man’s life in—and subsequent escape from—North Korea, one of the world’s most brutal totalitarian regimes.Half-Korean, half-Japanese, Masaji Ishikawa has spent his whole life feeling like a man without a country. This feeling only deepened when his family moved from Japan to North Korea when Ishikawa was just thirteen years old, and unwittingly became members of...

Details A River in Darkness

TitleA River in Darkness
Release DateJun 26th, 2018
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, History, Biography

Reviews A River in Darkness

  • Emily May
    Serfdom is freedom. Repression is liberation. A police state is a democratic republic. And we were “the masters of our own destiny.” And if we begged to differ, we were dead. This is one powerful little memoir. It's a true story that sounds like dystopian fiction - for most of us, it is difficult to imagine families being lured to a new "paradise", only to be met with famine, concentration camps and violence. It's hard to accept that this is ...
  • Lo
    The short version: This is easily the best firsthand narrative about life in North Korea that I've found, and it's a gripping, well-written story in its own right. If you haven't read anything like this, it will be VERY educational. But be aware that it doesn't have the happy ending the title implies, and prepare yourself accordingly. The long version: Some years ago, I realized that my view of North Korea was overly cartoonish. I didn't want to ...
  • Chrissie
    I liked A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea a lot. It is a personally told story. The author is speaking from his heart of what he has experienced—first ostracism in Japan due to his dual Japanese and Korean background, then the horror of the thirty-six years of his life spent in North Korea from 1960-1996 under the rule of Kim Il Sung and then Kim Jong Il, why he had to flee, how he did it and finally what happened when he r...
  • Maxwell
    A devastating account of one man's life in North Korea. This also has the added element of examining North Korean life from the perspective of someone who is half-Japanese, half-Korean. A good companion piece of Pachinko and In Order to Live.
  • Sara
    It's been a while since I read anything in one sitting, but this was utterly heartbreaking and compelling. Masaji Ishikawa and his family moved to North Korea during the great migration of Japanese/Korean immigrants to the communist state in the 1960s. Promises of a paradise and jobs for all duped many a family at the time, but the reality was far from what was expected. This is by far one of the best first hand accounts I've read of life in Nort...
  • She Always Reads
    While the life that Mr. Ishikawa live was horrifying by anyone standards, I found that at time the book was difficult to read. At moments it seemed as though a cohesive thought was not entirely transformed from reality to word. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that this book was written from translation, so I can’t really fault it.I’m not a history buff, I will never claim to be. I know enough that I was able to graduate from school...
  • Xavier (CharlesXplosion)
    A breathtaking real, unfiltered view of life in North Korea as a Japanese-Korean. Not all tales end happily, but Masaji Ishikawa's story exemplifies the resilience of the human spirit and importance of optimism even in the darkest of times.
  • Jo (An Unexpected Bookish Geek)
    "Her desperation, her fear, her exhaustion-all of it seeped through her thin clothes and straight into my heart."This is not the first non fiction book that I have read, regarding real people's lives in North Korea. It probably won't be my last, either. Much of the information in this particular account wasn't new to me, but this did not stop the utter disbelief washing over me, as I was reading.This very personal memoir is just gut-wrenchingly t...
  • Marilyn Hitesman
    The horror of life in North KoreaBeyond comprehension. The atrocities are being silenced but must be made known. No one should endure what these people do.
  • Holly
    This isn't the first non-fiction book I've read about real people's lives in North Korea (the first was Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea), so some of the information wasn't new to me this time around. However, this still was gut wrenching and captivating and horrifying. I can't imagine how so many people can endure so much needless suffering. I highly recommend reading either book - I think there's not enough people who realize how ...
  • Chandra Claypool (wherethereadergrows)
    My first love in books is horror followed closely by psychological thrillers. When I read nonfiction/memoirs, I typically stay somewhat within the same genre - true crime, etc. As a half South Korean woman, I also typically avoid reading anything regarding North Korea. I always assumed that these types of books would be the only ones that would get me "triggered"... and by that I mean PISSED OFF! However, when Ashley at Amazon Publishing gave me ...
  • Alaina Meserole
    I feel like I've been on a non-fiction kick lately and I've loved every minute of it.What first got my attention was the cover. I don't really know how else to explain it other than say it intrigued me so much that I didn't even think twice before I clicked it.Second, the title makes you think it will be a happy-ish book. Or that it will have a happy ending after all of the doom, sadness, and torture thrown upon you. Don't get your hopes up high ...
  • Janelle
    A RIVER OF DARKNESS by Masaji Ishikawa (translated by Risa Kobayashi and Martin Brown) Thank you so much to Amazon Publishing for sending me a free copy - all opinions are my own. “Someone once said, ‘If a crying baby could tear down the universe, it would.’ Thats how I felt that day. I wanted to demolish the whole universe, but the sad truth was, it had already come crashing down around my head.”My Review:This story is so personal—you ...
  • Joy D
    Memoir of Masaji Ishikawa wherein he relates the details of his life from being born in Japan in 1947 to moving with his family to North Korea, where they were promised “paradise on earth,” to his escape to Japan in 1996. Unsurprisingly, the so-called paradise never materialized, and his family’s standard of living gradually diminished until it reached starvation-level.Ishikawa tells his story in a very straight-forward conversational manne...
  • Sarah
    I've long been interested in North Korea - writing my undergraduate dissertation on female North Korean refugees and their treatment in China - so I always try to check out any new memoirs or non-fiction books on the country. I've previously read Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, This is Paradise!, Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home and parts of Under the Loving Care of th...
  • Staci
    Tragic. That one word sums up this entire memoir.I've read both Fiction and Non-Fiction books about North Korea which has provided me a pretty good background about what life is like there. What I didn't know until reading this memoir is nearly 80,000 Japanese moved to North Korea after WWII. They were told North Korea was a land of paradise. The author was born in Japan and moved to North Korea in 1960 when he was 13 years old. He lived there fo...
  • Dr Osama
    يتناول الكتاب قصة واقعية لرجل يدعى ماساجي ايشيكاوا، ولد في اليابان لأم يابانية وأب كوري. أنتقل مع أسرته إلى كوريا الشمالية عام ١٩٦٠ وهو فتى وعاش هناك ستاً وثلاثين عاما في ظروف اقتصادية وسياسية صعبة. سنوات المعاناة كانت مليئة بالقهر والجوع والمرض و...
  • Calzean
    I you think you have it tough go and read this book. The author is born in Japan to a Korean father and Japanese mother. In the early 60s his family happily accept the propaganda that life back in North Korea was a paradise. On their return reality was a life of poverty, corruption, ostracism, starvation, homelessness, unemployment and despair. After 38 years, the author escapes to China to find a country that will return escapees. Luckily some l...
  • Beverly K
    Oh god, that was the most depressing book I've read in a long time. There is literally no light at the end of the tunnel for Mr. Ishikawa. On the one hand, it was a fascinating and disturbing tale of life in North Korea. On the other hand...it was a dark and dreary tale of what happens in North Korea.I think I need a break from reading for a bit now.
  • Susan Swiderski
    I'm glad this book isn't longer, because there's no way I was going to bed until I completed it last night. This is one of those books that punches you right in the gut. Having a nebulous idea that "things are tough" in North Korea is one thing, but reading someone's harrowing first-hand account of just HOW horrible it is takes that understanding to a whole new level. The appalling and dehumanizing conditions under which people have been living i...
  •  *・Mariposa・*
    His story broke my heart
  • Eve
    This is an incredibly tragic memoir. Obviously, given the subject matter, it was bound to be, but JESUS. It was very eye-opening, as you hear about how terrible North Koreans have it, but to see it in these (sometimes graphic) words is something else.The book was mostly a linear timeline, but it jumped forward quite a lot, and there were times when 10 years had gone by without really being described, so it was sometimes hard to keep up with about...
  • Alison Offerdal
    HeartbreakingA Japanese boy, moved to North Korea in the sixties with his family, struggles to survive the hardships and lies of the regime. Maked you appreciate what you have and the liberties so often taken for granted in Western society.
  • Liz
    Utterly brutal. This first-person account of how life in North Korea was an is is truly something else...
  • Kate
    Well, this was a weird experience... in a way, a very unsatisfying book. But then, in another way, the frustrations were so unexpected and new for an autobiography, that it almost felt like it was doing something fresh and insightful with the genre... First of all, I can well believe the misery, the constant hunger, and the unremitting, demoralizing, unbearably petty stupidity of the North Korean regime. It all sounds horribly similar to what I'v...
  • Donna
    This was a depressing autobiography that reminded me of the repetitive inhumanity Solzhenitsyn describes in his accounts of living in the gulag system. But it lacks the prose that made me subject myself to Solzhenitsyn's second book. While I feel for him and hope that he thrives now that he has escaped from hell, I don't believe that I would read another book by Ishikawa. There was no closure, either. Spoiler alert, here: he left his starving fam...
  • Kasa Cotugno
    When I read Pachinko, the fictionalized account of a family's actual history, it opened my eyes to the lives of Korean nationals who found themselves in Japan and unable to return. Now here is a memoir of a man whose life has thus been defined, but whose situation was even more dire. Born in 1947 of a Korean father and Japanese mother, Masaji Ishikawa endured early life feeling an outcast. Believing the hype that Kim Jong-sung had created a "para...
  • Westminster Library
    Masaji Ishikawa poignantly writes about his life and escape from North Korea. He is half Japanese and half Korean and moves at the age of thirteen to North Korea with his family after being promised a better life with more opportunity for work and education than Japan can offer at the time. It is an extremely dire situation and unbelievable that conditions like this truly exist. As another reviewer expressed so well, “A River in Darkness is not...