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Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

Testament of Youth (1933)

by Vera Brittain

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Vera Brittain's Testament (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,458375,132 (4.19)2 / 338
  1. 10
    The Ghost at the Wedding: A True Story by Shirley Walker (cushlareads)
    cushlareads: Testament of Youth is Vera Brittain's very moving autobiography of her life and loss of loved ones in World War One. The Ghost at the Wedding is about Jessie Walker, born in Australia in 1899, and numerous family members who went off to fight in World War One and later Two. Both books were great.… (more)
  2. 00
    The Man from St. Petersburg by Ken Follett (LiteraryReadaholic)
  3. 00
    Chronicle of Youth: War Diary, 1913-17 by Vera Brittain (VivienneR)

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English (36)  Italian (1)  All (37)
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
(10/10) I am sitting here struggling to put into words my feelings about this book having just finished it. At once witty, insightful, heartbreaking, honest and bittersweet this is by far the best book I have ever read. Very rarely am I so moved that I have had to physically close the book and walk away to compose myself, if affected me that much on more than one occasion.

This is an absolutely essential read and I cannot believe it took a film for me to know it existed. My copy is destined to be bookcrossed but I have already put a brand new hardcover copy on my Christmas list that I will treasure and read many more times. ( )
  LiteraryReadaholic | Mar 8, 2017 |
Still reading this. A little hard to read because the style is verbose. It gives great insight into what life was like for a woman during the first world war, especially an intelligent and articulate and political a person as Vera Brittan. ( )
1 vote CarolBurrows | Feb 11, 2017 |
It is a good story, and a interesting view of a time we'll never experience again, but the writing really drags along in many places. ( )
2 vote harmen | Mar 2, 2015 |
Vera Brittain tells the story of her young adulthood, which coincided with the outbreak of World War I. I don't think I fully comprehended the description "lost generation" until I read this book. How could these young people, raised in such seemingly sunny conditions and then thrust into the horror and loss that were World War I, come out on the other side anything other than lost?

Brittain lived a privileged existence, and was able to go to Oxford even if her parents didn't quite see the point in it; how would she ever get married if she spent these years getting an education? Aside from the loss of time, who would want her after she'd been doing something as unfeminine as attending university? It all turned out to be a moot point when the war starts, however, and as every man she knows (including the object of her affections, Roland, and her brother Edward) joins the army, she decides she can't see the point of continuing to while away her time occupied by academics and volunteers for nursing duty.

Her observations on life and war are pointed and profound; her writing is beautiful. The fact that she wrote this with seventeen years' distance from the War, but before the outbreak of the Second World War adds a feeling of wistfulness for the modern reader. If she had only known what was coming (although she did seem to have some ideas, at least). Once the war is over, she slowly regains some sense of equilibrium, although she realizes her generation is set apart from its contemporaries, although they may be only a couple of years younger. Her generation seems to be simultaneously old and young, and they aren't sure how to reconcile that or the new world they live in. Brittain does some political work, gets involved with lecturing through the League of Nations, and works for the cause of women's rights. These later sections of the book were not as absorbing as the first part for me, but on the other hand, they were also not as unrelentingly tragic.

I lingered over this book, partially because some of it was so sad that it was best to absorb it in small doses and partially because I wanted to contemplate some of the things she wrote. Brittain's voice came through loud and clear; it felt sometimes like I was listening to the story rather than reading it.

Recommended for: people who want a World War I account from a different point of view, feminists

Quote: "He neither hated the Germans nor loved the Belgians; the only possible motive for going was "heroism in the abstract," and that didn't seem a very logical reason for risking one's life." ( )
3 vote ursula | Dec 20, 2014 |
Vera Brittain's "Testament of Youth" is a pretty amazing memoir about her experiences as young adult during World War I. Brittain temporarily gives up her studies at Oxford to serve as a nurse to wounded soldiers, while her fiancee, brother and many of the young men in her social circle march off to fight in the war. Brittain's contemporaries lost many promising young men in the war, leaving survivors at home as a sort of lost generation.

Her memoir really excels as Brittain details the post-war years, where she has appears to be a feeling survivor's guilt and has difficulty relating to younger peers, who didn't have the same losses become so ingrained in their psyches.

I found the sections about Brittain's post-war work as a lecturer on peace and in the feminist movement less interesting -- there is a big focus on British politics that was uninteresting to me. But overall, this memoir makes for a truly fascinating read. ( )
1 vote amerynth | Nov 21, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vera Brittainprimary authorall editionscalculated
Williams, ShirleyPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them. But those were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten... Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore. The people will tell of their wisdom, and the congregation will shew forth their praise.
--Ecclesiastes 44
R.A.L. and E.H.B.
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When the Great War broke out, it came to me not as a superlative tragedy, but as an interruption of the most exasperating kind to my personal plans.
The impulse to put what I felt into verse -- a new impulse which had recently begun both to fascinate and torment me -- sprang up with overwhelming compulsion.
Absorbed in Unseen Translations and the Binomial Theorem, eagerly looking forward to seeing Roland once more at Uppingham, and mitigating the interval by a heartless retrospective flirtation with my would-be suitor of the previous summer, I entirely failed to notice in the daily papers of June 29th an account of the assassination, on the previous morning, of a European potentate whose name was unknown to me, in a Balkan town of which I had never heard. (pg 85/661)
Whenever I think of the weeks that followed the news of Roland's death, a series of pictures, disconnected but crystal clear, unroll themselves like a kaleidoscope through my mind.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143039237, Paperback)

When war broke out in August 1914, 21-year-old Vera Brittain was planning on enrolling at Somerville College, Oxford. Her father told her she wouldn't be able to go: "In a few months' time we should probably all find ourselves in the Workhouse!" he opined. Brittain had hoped to escape the Northern provinces, but the war seemingly dashed her plans. "It is not, perhaps, so very surprising that the War at first seemed to me an infuriating personal interruption rather than a world-wide catastrophe."

Her father eventually relented, however, and she was allowed to attend. By the end of her first year, she had fallen in love with a young soldier and resolved to become active in the war effort by volunteering as a nurse--turning her back on what she called her "provincial young-ladyhood." Brittain suffered through 12-hour days by reminding herself that nothing she endured was worse than what her fiancé, Roland, experienced in the trenches. Roland was expected home on leave for Christmas 1915; on December 26, Brittain received news that he had been killed at the front. Ten months later Brittain herself was sent to Malta and then to France to serve in the hospitals nearer the front, where she witnessed firsthand the horrors of battle. When peace finally came, Brittain had also lost her brother Edward and two close friends. As she walked the streets of London on November 11, 1918--Armistice Day--she felt alone in the crowds:

For the first time I realised, with all that full realisation meant, how completely everything that had hitherto made up my life had vanished with Edward and Roland, with Victor and Geoffrey. The War was over; a new age was beginning; but the dead were dead and would never return.

First published in 1933, Testament of Youth established Brittain as one of the best-loved authors of her time. Her crisp, clear prose and searing honesty make this unsentimental memoir of a generation scarred by war a classic. --Sunny Delaney

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:51 -0400)

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"In 1915 Vera Brittain abandoned her studies at Oxford to enlist as a nurse in the armed services. Before the war was over she had served in London, Malta, and close to the Western Front in France--and she had lost all the men she loved. Out of that experience came this cauterizing book, at once a memoir and an elegy for the bright, passionate generation who came of age on the eve of the war and vanished in its trenches."… (more)

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