The Smallest Things: On the Enduring Power of Family is an enjoyable short read about the importance of appreciating family. Author Nick Duerden recalls annual visits to his maternal grandparents in Milan over the years and his memories, both good and bad, of these visits.
For many people, it is only as our parents or grandparents begin to age, that we begin to realise that when they are no longer with us, all their stories have gone too. With the author’s father being largely absent from his life and his mother dying young, his Italian grandparents are his only link to his past.
As the title suggests, there are no great events in this book. Rather it is an appreciation of the small happenings which make up everyday life and whose importance are all too easily overlooked. I particularly enjoyed the small sections at the end of each chapter sharing Nonna’s wisdom on the rituals and the correct way to, among others things, clear a table, prepare lunch and how to honour and respect. Nonna’s way is clearly the right way and not to be questioned!
A beautifully written and thought-provoking memoir, this is the kind of book that will make you look with fresh and more appreciative eyes at your own older relations.
My thanks to Alison Menzies and the publishers Elliot & Thompson books for my review copy. The Smallest Things is published today in hardback and as an ebook. You should be able to buy or order a copy from your usual book retailer or you can buy a copy online here: The Smallest Things
From the back of the book
It is easy to take for granted the things that are always around us, the people who are always there. And yet they often hold the keys to who we really are.
Nick Duerden’s grandparents were always just . . . there. A mysterious yet unchanging presence, a source of dutiful visits, birthday cards and carefully preserved rituals: lunches, dinners and endless card games.
But, as he enters midlife, and his 98-year-old grandmother enters a care home, he realises that, like so many of us, he should perhaps have paid more attention to her true worth years before.
As Nick goes in search of the secrets his late mother took to the grave, he finds it can be the smallest things that keep us together when so much is left unspoken. This is a memoir of the tiny dramas that fill all our lives, and a celebration of the special ties that can bind two intimately connected strangers. Tender and poignant, it captures the richness, and also the complexity, of family life.
About the author
Nick Duerden is a freelance journalist whose work appears regularly in a wide selection of newspapers and magazines in the UK and US, including the Guardian, Independent, Sunday Times, GQ, Esquire, Billboard and Elle. He is the author of several books including A Life Less Lonely: What We Can All Do to Lead More Connected, Kinder Lives, Get Well Soon: Adventures in Alternative Healthcare and The Reluctant Fathers’ Club: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Cautiously Embrace Parenthood, which have been featured in the Sunday Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, The Times and Daily Mail, and on Sky News and on BBC Radio 4 and 5. He lives in London, is married, and has two daughters.