The Smallest Things By Nick Duerden: A Memoir Of Tiny Dramas

February 16, 2019

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

I read this book, The Smallest Things by Nick Duerden, this week. As Valentine’s Day was on Thursday it seemed highly appropriate as it is a book about love: love of family.

It is an utterly delightful book and it is all about the enduring power of family. Nick Duerden is a successful freelance journalist who works regularly both in the UK and US. Having lost his own mother he continues to visit her parents (his Italian grandparents) who live in Milan.

Picture from the book The Smallest Things by Nick Duerden
Nick with his precious ‘Nonna’ – his Italian grandmother

He had visited them annually from a very young age. However it is only now, since his mother died, that he realises how much they love him. Also he recognises his own feelings for them. Their idiosyncrasies no longer irritate or bore him as he sees how they define them. He learns to appreciate their ways. It is then that he realises how, as their world shrinks and they approach their end, it will be he who misses them.

Nick’s grandparents are a generation never to be repeated. They lived through WWII and as such their view of the world is different to his own. They were always just there for Nick and nothing ever changed. When his grandmother enters a care home, reluctantly, when she is 98 years old, Nick realises her true worth.

I spoke to friends about the importance of their own relatives. Had they plundered their respective histories? Did they care enough to do so? Or did they, like me, toy with leaving it too late, these great repositories of untold stories forever unplundered, then lost?

We take for granted those things that are always around us, the people that are always there. There was drama in my family’s past, ruptures between the generations that had wrenched them apart, and shameful secrets that kept them that way. I knew that these stories would fascinate me, compel me, so why had I not tried to find out about them sooner? Could I still find answers.

Nick Duerden

I guess, like all of us, when we lose someone from the previous generation it is then that we appreciate them. They leave a void that can never be filled. More and more people are looking for answers of their own. Perhaps this is because of the TV programmes and websites devoted to this. We all want to find out where we truly come from.

This book should be read by every grandchild, every child or just everyone! Don’t keep putting off sitting down and listening to the generation that goes before one. They have so much to offer and we can learn from them. My father never did email, or had a mobile phone so we did very little chatting. It is only now that I think of all the questions I would like to have asked him. Questions about his childhood and early married life. It is too late for me now. So take a leaf out of Nick Duerden’s book and take the time whilst they are still around. However one can relate so much to his words as they are written with such sensitivity and poignancy. I shall be giving this book as a gift to many of my friends.

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