“A girl of indisputable gifts, she should of course use them someday to make a beautiful home and raise a family in elegant surroundings…” School psychologist’s report on Irma Kurtz, 1950.
In 1954 eighteen-year-old Irma Kurtz left New Jersey to travel across Europe, intent on transforming herself and changing the world. She looked to the Old World for an alternative destiny to that mapped out by the traditional expectations at home. On her post-war Grand Tour she found what she believed in: Art and Culture and Beauty and Love, and some horror as a Jewish girl encountering the seat of much of her family’s destruction.
Years later, sifting through a cardboard box filled with memories at her mother’s house, she rediscovered the journal of her first journey, the one that marked the beginning of a life of writing and living abroad. Gripped by intense recollections of sailing across the Atlantic, and intrigued by the exuberant remarks of her adventurous younger self, she decided to leave her London home and retrace her footsteps, this time with herself as a guide.
Testing her theory that older women are invisible, Kurtz’s journey is peppered with acute observations of human behaviour, not to mention some sharp advice for her ghostly travel companion, a teenager who thinks she knows it all, yet is blind to what lies ahead of her. Part-memoir, part-travelogue, this unique book contrasts the experience of two very different travellers, offering an insight into what has endured, and what has been lost, in the life of one woman and the altered environment of Europe at the dawn of a new millennium.
Beautifully written, moving and funny, Then Again is time-travel at its best, revealing the pains and pleasures of growing older and wiser.
Reviews of Then Again
‘This original twist on the travel memoir is a brilliant way to distil a lifetime of hard-earned wisdom, as Irma Kurtz gives advice to her younger self in a journey of reminiscence fifty years later.’ Rosemary Bailey
‘There is so much that is vivid, wise and excellent in this book. With her generosity of spirit, love of people, untarnished curiosity about the world, laser-sharp observation and wry wit, she would make a wonderful travel companion. I for one, would be thrilled to find her sitting beside me on a long journey.’ Val Hennessy, Daily Mail
‘Racy, vividly ironic, this is a great intro to the States.’ Observer
‘A love letter to London written with bristling intelligence.’ Independent
‘Leavened with jokes and raised to an art form by wonderful apercus.’ New Statesman