Winner of the Slightly Foxed Best First Biography Prize 2021
Shortlisted for the Costa 2021 Biography Award and the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2021
Free is an engrossing memoir of coming of age amid political upheaval. Lea Ypi grew up in Albania, the last Stalinist outpost of Europe, where communism had officially replaced religion. In 1990, everything changed. As one generation’s aspirations became another’s disillusion, and as her own family secrets were revealed, Ypi found herself asking what freedom really meant.
‘Lea Ypi’s memoir Free vividly portrays the confusions of childhood and adolescence among the lies, surreal oddity and dangers that she experienced under the strict rule of communist Albania and the chaos after 1990. Gradually understanding the behaviour of her grandmother, father, mother, neighbours and friends, she reveals the complexities of different, often incompatible ideas of freedom. Both funny and deeply serious, it is a moving personal narrative, a fascinating portrait of Albania, and a profoundly valuable analysis of what it is to be free.’
Johnny de Falbe, 2021 Prize Judge
‘Wonderfully funny and poignant . . . a tale of family secrets and political awakening amid a crumbling regime. One of the nonfiction titles of the year’ Observer
‘Astonishing and deeply resonant . . . Ypi weaves magic in this book: I was entranced from beginning to end’ Sunday Times