BookBrowse Reviews Free by Lea Ypi

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A Child and a Country at the End of History

by Lea Ypi

Free by Lea Ypi X
Free by Lea Ypi
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2022, 256 pages

    Jan 2022, 304 pages


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About this Book



Lea Ypi recalls growing up in Albania before and after the fall of communism in this fascinating memoir.

The response to Lea Ypi's memoir Free by our First Impressions readers was overwhelmingly positive, with 20 out of 22 reviews rating the book four or five stars.

Readers appreciated the insight into life in Albania, a country they knew little about before reading Free:

I found this book very informative about Albania. The author's description of her childhood in the 1980s had both humor and information about how a child could be happy living in a strict communist society (Sylvia F). I highly recommend this book. Lea Ypi's personal story of coming of age illuminated the history, politics and culture of Albania. I learned something on every page (Lucy S).

Free was deemed unique for its representations of life in a heavily propagandized communist country:

It was enlightening to learn what she was taught in school, including how to think about her country (Patricia W). Free gives the reader a rare glimpse of daily life in a socialist society where the collective is paramount, religion is nonexistent, propaganda is preached in the schools, goods are limited or scarce, and praise for the leader is embedded in all aspects of life (Bonne O). Her story is unusual in that, as a child, she was very much a believer in "the Party," and found her parents and extended relatives rather lukewarm about it. Halfway through, when the Party falls under protests, Ypi learns some shocking things about her family. This book is perfect for Cold War history buffs or those who are intrigued by all forms of socialism (Peggy K). One of the most interesting aspects of the book was reading about the different perspectives of three generations. Unlike Ypi, her parents and grandmother had experienced life before socialism (Patricia W).

The book caused many readers to contemplate the meaning of freedom:

While I was unfamiliar with this topical area, it expanded my perspective on the impacts of changing political conditions on ideological beliefs. The novel's conclusion caused me to contemplate, 'Is freedom a concept defined in the eye of the beholder?' (Mel F). Despite a universal desire for democracy and freedom, the author causes the reader to reflect on the price that one actually pays for freedom. Free should be required reading in all high school and college world history classes (Bonne O). I didn't realize how difficult the transition to democracy is for countries and for individuals. This book reminded me to think about what it means to be free and what freedom is. I will recommend it to my friends (Patricia W). Free gives the reader lots of things to think about, not the least of which is what freedom means to different people (Victoria B).

And several pointed out that Free offers plenty of opportunities for rich book club discussions:

I think this would be an excellent choice for a book group, allowing discussions about how the adults in her life protected her by not telling her the truth about the system under which they lived, but also exploring the ways in which political philosophies are distorted by those who claim to be creating a society based on them (Rosemary C). I found the book to be delightfully readable while broaching complicated political, economic and philosophical theories. I would recommend it to book groups and readers who want to understand a different culture (Beth C). Each chapter of the book would provide topics for enthusiastic book club discussions (Vicky S).

This review first ran in the February 16, 2022 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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Beyond the Book:
  Albania, Then and Now


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