Where, or what, is home? In Dandelions, Thea Lenarduzzi pieces together her family history through four generations’ worth of migration between Italy and England, and the stories scattered like seeds along the way.
Where, or what, is home? What has it meant, historically and personally, to be ‘Italian’ or ‘English’, or both in a culture that prefers us to choose? What does it mean to have roots? Or to have left a piece of oneself somewhere long since abandoned?
In Dandelions, Thea Lenarduzzi pieces together her family history through four generations’ worth of migration between Italy and England, and the stories scattered like seeds along the way. At the heart of this book is her grandmother Dirce, a former seamstress and a repository of tales that are by turns unpredictable, unreliable, significant. Through the journeys of Dirce and her relatives, from the Friuli to Sheffield and Manchester and back again, a different kind of history emerges.
A family memoir rich in folk legends, food, art, politics and literature, Dandelions heralds the arrival of an exceptional writer: bold, joyful and wise.
‘Dandelions is a book of hauntings, intensely experienced, pierced by occasional terrors, yet irradiated throughout by passionate attachment. Generations of family ghosts wander between Italy and England, their lives summoned from a beloved grandmother’s long memories and the author’s own wide-roaming, often poetic reflections on botany, history and language. Thea Lenarduzzi has spread out before us a feast of sensuous and sensitive, nuanced and deeply appealing testimony to migration, survival, and complicated identities at a time when such thoughtfulness is rare and desperately needed.’
— Marina Warner, author of Inventory of a Life Mislaid
‘Beautifully observed and written with heart and an infectious curiosity, Thea Lenarduzzi's Dandelions parses the complex ways in which we live out our histories and carry the past within us, through ritual, food, language and legend. Like rifling through an overflowing drawer or opening an ancient photo album, Lenarduzzi unearths glinting gems of family fiction, introducing us to a shifting cast of memorable characters whose journeys, stories and passions it's our joy to share.’
— Francesca Wade, author of Square Haunting
‘In this subtle and elegant family memoir, Thea Lenarduzzi gathers the ghost seeds between her present life in England and her family’s past in Italy. A meditation on roots, inheritance and homesickness, Dandelions is also a reminder that what will survive of us is love.’
— Frances Wilson, author of Burning Man
‘Dandelions is spellbinding. Like the polished beads of a secular rosary, each bearing a remembrance, Lenarduzzi's ancestral memoir conjures intimate histories of migration, love, and loss across decades of passages between Italy and England. Her redoubtable grandmother Dirce will lure you in, as she unfolds fragmentary myths with a sly wit, whispering ascolta, “listen” – and you won't resist.’
— Anna Della Subin, author of Accidental Gods
‘Dandelions is a beautiful, precise and exceptionally intelligent family memoir. In it, Lenarduzzi carefully detangles a complex web of interlocking stories, which she finds to be threaded through with warmth, aspiration and hope. In the figure of Dirce we find a kind-hearted grandmother and compendium of stories both – offering wisdom and familial mythology like a Friulian oracle. Dandelions marks the arrival of a stunning new voice.’
— Cal Flyn, author of Islands of Abandonment
‘This charmingly candid account of the tensions between an English present and an Italian past is also a fascinating family saga, teeming with idiosyncratic life and bringing with it a chunk of history that still conditions both countries today.’
— Tim Parks, author of The Hero’s Way
‘Local dialects, language and superstition, Mussolini, Red Brigades and the trials of immigration are woven through this captivating family memoir as it chases a home across three generations of movement between Italy and England and back again. Lenarduzzi transmutes conversations with a formidable grandmother into a prose of many textures and inflections, giving us a story that is as as rich as it is gripping.’
— Lisa Appignanesi, author of Everyday Madness
‘Thea Lenarduzzi has written a profoundly evocative, lyrical meditation on family and kinship in their largest sense. A Natalia Ginzburg-inspired wandering through the life of her grandmother in pre-war Italy and post-war Manchester stimulates an exploration of home, homesickness, home truths, and homecomings. Lenarduzzi has an impressively patient capacity for acts of sustained attention: the dandelion will never be the same again!’
— Lara Feigel, author of The Group
‘Dandelions is…an overwhelming success. Just as it describes many Italys, it also encompasses many books, and this unusual combination of family memoir, literary enquiry and political history is a triumph.’
— Francesca Peacock, The Spectator
‘As if scattering dandelion seeds, Lenarduzzi writes discursively in precise, metaphorical prose, layering family mythology with fascinating political, economic and social context…At a pivotal moment when “but Mussolini also did good things” is murmured across Italy, Lenarduzzi’s reckoning with her heritage highlights the way history reverberates in the present. Her timely investigation of Italian identity and fascist legacy illuminates the roots of nationalism the world over.’
— Madeleine Feeny, Financial Times
‘Thea Lenarduzzi’s first book, is a more than worthy work of nonfiction. Mixing the wild and mythical stories told by Thea’s grandmother Dirce — about night-dwelling demons, bloody curses and “Mussolini's modern Icarus” — with the true tales of four generations of her own relatives, she fuses family memoir and social history in an examination of relationships, botany, architecture, and community ritual.’
— Jenna Mahale, I-D
‘Lenarduzzi’s touching debut, winner of the 2020 Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize, serves up lyrical meditations on food, family, and belonging...Lenarduzzi’s admiration for her grandmother’s resourcefulness and resilience provides an affecting emotional backbone, and the elegant prose delights... The result is a ruminative take on what it means to put down roots.’
— Publishers Weekly
‘Lenarduzzi…finds potent symbols amid the phantasmagoria and subtly evokes their haunting power, which endows her work with a fabular quality redolent of Marina Warner… Lenarduzzi accommodates her family’s experiences without becoming obscure. Ultimately, the book’s greatest strength lies in her willingness to disturb histories previously thought to be settled.’
— Amy Walters, The Saturday Paper