At the centre of young Ismail’s world is the unknowable figure of his mother. Naïve and fragile as a paper doll, she is an unlikely presence in her husband’s great stone house, with its hidden rooms and infamous dungeon, and is constantly at odds with her wise and thin-lipped mother-in-law. But despite her lightness and unchanging youthful nature, she is not without her own enigmas. Most of all, she fears that her intellectual son – who uses words she doesn’t understand, publishes radical poetry, falls in love freely and seems to be renouncing everything she embodies of the old-world – will have to exchange her for a superior mother when he becomes a famous writer. Dedicated to the memory of his mother and circling back to his childhood in Albania, ‘The Doll’ is Ismail Kadare’s delicate and disarming tale of home and creative longing, of writerly aspiration, and of personal and political freedom.