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Vera Brittain (1893–1970)

Author of Testament of Youth

37+ Works 3,725 Members 86 Reviews 12 Favorited

About the Author


Works by Vera Brittain

Testament of Youth (1933) 2,155 copies
Testament of Friendship (1940) 316 copies
Testament of Experience (1957) 280 copies
Honourable Estate (1936) 60 copies
The Dark Tide (1923) 55 copies
Born 1925 (1948) 42 copies
Testament of Youth [2014 film] (2015) — Original book — 40 copies
Account Rendered (1944) 28 copies
Humiliation with honor (1942) 21 copies

Associated Works

South Riding (1936) — Epitaph, some editions — 932 copies
The Assassin's Cloak: An Anthology of the World's Greatest Diarists (2000) — Contributor, some editions — 551 copies
The Norton Book of Women's Lives (1993) — Contributor — 412 copies
Mystery and Adventure Stories (1937) — Contributor — 2 copies


1001 (30) 1001 books (23) 20th century (76) autobiography (327) biography (283) Britain (28) British (44) British history (41) British literature (22) diary (32) England (102) English (17) English literature (21) feminism (44) fiction (66) France (16) friendship (15) history (205) letters (44) literature (18) memoir (278) non-fiction (314) novel (19) nursing (41) own (20) pacifism (30) poetry (16) read (28) to-read (191) unread (31) Vera Brittain (61) Virago (53) Virago Modern Classics (32) war (73) Winifred Holtby (16) women (44) women's history (17) women's studies (19) WWI (539) WWII (58)

Common Knowledge



Group Read, November 2014: Testament of Youth in 1001 Books to read before you die (November 2014)
Testament of Youth - Part 1 in Group Reads - Literature (July 2013)


Poignant, heartbreaking, and will stay with you for a long time.
Brad4273 | 52 other reviews | Sep 13, 2023 |
Quite an interesting collection of journalism, covering feminism, politics, and the writer’s life. Of the topics covered, the feminism section was the most interesting (and at times the most disheartening because of how little some things have changed). I preferred Winifred Holtby‘s over Vera Brittain‘s because Holtby‘s writing is more direct, but both women were interesting to read. Recommended if you like either of these writers.
rabbitprincess | 1 other review | May 17, 2023 |
Books about female friendship are ubiquitous these days, but in Vera Brittain's day (1893-1970) it was all about noble male friendship (a.k.a. mateship here in Australia) while close female friendships were sometimes the subject of speculation and gossip. Just as Brittain's Testament of Youth (1933) was the first to step outside the male experience of WW1, so too was her story of her intimate but platonic friendship with a woman who meant the world to her. Testament of Friendship is poignant reading because Winifred Holtby (1898-1935) died aged only 37 from Bright's Disease, (now known as nephritis, i.e. kidney disease.)

Despite its tragic conclusion, the book is a lively account of two clever young women determined to do something useful in the world. They met at Oxford, where in the absence of men mostly at the front, they enjoyed comparative respect for women. Both had served in the war, Vera as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse and Winifred in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), an experience which she used in her writing, as seen in the Sensational Snippet I published last week. Although Brittain's pacifism cost her some respect during WW2 which was looming even as she wrote this tribute to her friend, Testament of Friendship documents how young women could be politically active as feminists, socialists and pacifists, and could take on significant roles in the issues of the day.

At the same time, the women shared a grief for all that had been lost in the devastation of that pointless war. Vera had lost her fiancé, her two close friends and her brother, while Winifred's 'love of her life' returned psychologically damaged and not capable of settling to anything. Oxford, they found on their return, was a changed place too. Chapter VI explains how it was inhabited by three incompatible groups engaged in a spiritual tug-of-war:

  • The dons in their academic twilight, barely illumined by occasional visits from younger or more enterprising colleagues who had joined the Army or taken posts in Government offices. These senior members of the academic staff had waited out the war in discomfort, not because they were pacificists, but because the chaos of war threatened their decorous intellectual routine;

  • The returning servicemen, back to finish their interrupted studies, impatient with the university's restrictions on their liberty after years of peril, independence and extreme responsibility. Ex-colonels and majors in their late twenties did not respect curfews to protect morality!

  • The youthful contingent of schoolboys and schoolgirls who had spent the war in classrooms and on playing fields resented the transformation of Oxford by their disillusioned seniors. Even as the Treaty of Versailles was setting up the conditions for WW2, their aspirations were to build a new world. So battles raged in common rooms, debating societies and university magazines.

Of all that I have read about the aftermath of WW2, I had never come across this dissection of the ferment in universities!

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2023/04/10/testament-of-friendship-1940-by-vera-brittai...
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anzlitlovers | 5 other reviews | Apr 9, 2023 |
Not an enjoyable book to read. Full of elitist thoughts and opinions, superfluous facts and backfill... And yet, it is unputdownable, required reading for anyone wishing to understand the sacrifices of previous generations- Oh my God, what they had to endure in the name of patriotism and freedom ! How did they do it so nobly, stoically? And where would we be if they hadn't ? Respect.
MJWebb | 52 other reviews | Sep 22, 2022 |



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