Review of ‘Free’ by Lea Ypi

I knew very little about Albanian history before reading this book, so it was certainly educational. As a memoir, it unfortunately didn’t match my expectations.

The book describes the experiences of Lea, who was 11 years old in 1990 when communism began to collapse in Albania. There is distinctly a ‘before’ and ‘after’ in the narrative – halfway through, it is revealed what her family were keeping from her. Her life had revolved around the indoctrination of the one-party state and suddenly everything changed. There is a lot about her family, friends, teachers and neighbours. It was interesting to read about what everyday life for children was like in communist Albania but it was put more in perspective when Lea visited Greece and made a list of everything she was experiencing for the first time.

The writing lacked the novelistic style that I like in a memoir. I just expected to feel more of an emotional impact, as although I knew so little about Albania, I did know how turbulent the times were. Some of the content seemed like lectures and indeed I later found out that the author is a political theory professor. I ended up skipping those paragraphs which, while undoubtedly important, were written in an academic way that did not appeal.

In summary, this book has admirable qualities and is ideal if you want to know more about Albanian political history. It turned out to be not my kind of read, however.

Thank you to the publisher Penguin for the advance copy via NetGalley. The book will be published on 28th October.

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