What is a home?

The personal history of an Anglo-Italian family is told with great skill and emotional clarity
October 6, 2022

Thea Lenarduzzi (RRP:£12.99)
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Thea Lenarduzzi’s memoir asks a big question: “What is a home?” For Lenarduzzi, it could be Manchester, or Sheffield, or Friuli in the northeast of Italy, the sites of migration for her Anglo-Italian family who moved from place to place and back again over four generations. With great skill and emotional clarity Lenarduzzi tracks this personal history, making the grandness of time, space and life at once compact and sprawling. Reading Dandelions is to become familiar with Lenarduzzi’s heritage but also to uncover its vastness. 

At the heart of Lenarduzzi’s work is her Italian grandmother, Dirce, a charming, often spiky storyteller who hoards British paracetamol and biscuits. Lenarduzzi remembers to bring these items every time she visits from the UK, a journey that feels like a homecoming at both ends; her British and Italian identities are firmly intertwined thanks to her ancestors’ relocations, but there are still conflicts and imbalances that the author grapples with as she listens to Dirce’s memories. 

Lenarduzzi’s female-centred story creates space for the overlooked of the past to step forward into the light—a mother, a wife, a cook, a seamstress given the chance to offer their versions of life in the 20th century, of fascism in Italy, of prejudice in England, of love, food and family. The dandelions of the title, picked by Dirce as a food source anywhere from the earth of Maniago to the industrial backlots of Manchester, offer a resonant poetic symbol. “Experience becomes language becomes story becomes identity,” Lenarduzzi writes. “And everyone’s place is settled.”