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Testament of Youth (1933)

by Vera Brittain

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Vera Brittain's Testament (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,993567,059 (4.15)2 / 385
In 1914 Vera Brittain was eighteen and, as war was declared, she was preparing to study at Oxford. Four years later her life - and the life of her whole generation - had changed in a way that was unimaginable in the tranquil pre-war era. TESTAMENT OF YOUTH, one of the most famous autobiographies of the First World War, is Brittain's account of how she survived the period; how she lost the man she loved; how she nursed the wounded and how she emerged into an altered world. A passionate record of a lost generation, it made Vera Brittain one of the best-loved writers of her time.… (more)
  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. 10
    Testament of Friendship by Vera Brittain (jigarpatel)
    jigarpatel: Testament of Youth is almost required reading for Testament of Friendship. The former a memoir of Vera Brittain, the latter a biography of her closest friend Winifred Holtby. Although focusing on individuals and their relationships, they also powerfully describe the "state of the times". In particular, causes such as feminism, pacifism and racial equality are brought to life through the eyes of the protagonists.… (more)
  3. 00
    The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell (charlie68)
    charlie68: Similar vibe an autobiographical account but also a commentary on contemporary society.
  4. 00
    How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (charlie68)
    charlie68: A Fictional account of a coal town and the birth of the labor movement.
  5. 00
    Cabin Fever by Elizabeth Jolley (KayCliff)
  6. 00
    The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (bjappleg8)
    bjappleg8: Both books describe the decimation of a generation of young men as seen close up: from WWI in Testament of Youth and in The Great Believers the ravages of AIDS in the 1980s.
  7. 00
    Chronicle of Youth: War Diary, 1913-17 by Vera Brittain (VivienneR)
  8. 00
    The Man from St. Petersburg by Ken Follett (LiteraryReadaholic)
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» See also 385 mentions

English (50)  Italian (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (53)
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
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 | Sep 22, 2022 |
A first hand account of a woman's journey from academia to the trenches of World War I. Beautifully written with depth and passion with poetry throughout it's a heart wrenching book. ( )
  charlie68 | Sep 6, 2022 |
Testament of Youth is Vera Brittain’s memoir of her years just prior to, during, and shortly after World War I. It is a unique look at the war from the perspective of a woman who gave up her studies at Oxford to serve as a nurse in France and Malta. Like so many of her fellows, she lost all the important young men in her life: her brother, Edward; he fiance, Roland; and two close friends Gregory and Victor. When the war years had passed, she was alone and bereft and struggling to think what life could possibly have to offer.

There seemed to be nothing left in the world, for I felt that Roland had taken with him all my future and Edward all my past.

The book is not perfect. There are sections, particularly those after the war when she deals with her feminist activities and her work to further the League of Nations, that go on far too long and with detail that can have little or no interest to the reader. That can easily be forgiven, however, in the face of the genuine and heartfelt account, particularly of the war years, a section in which I hung on every word.

I cried for these young men, whose lives were thrown away so cavalierly by the governments who refused to solve their disagreements without loss of life. So much of the book is based on actual correspondence with them, their poems, their letters. How intelligent and expressive, how young and promising, so much to live for and so little opportunity to reach the potential they exhibited. Vera Brittain’s daughter said she never recovered from the loss of her lover, Roland Leighton. I can understand that. He was eternally young for her, he was always handsome and ready to step into the world and conquer it. He never became old or disappointing.

What revelations I had about the women of this era. The extent of her independent spirit and her ambitions seemed so modern to me. It was hard for me to imagine this woman as a product of the late 1800’s and not the 20th Century. Having recently read All Quiet on the Western Front, which was written from the perspective of a young German soldier, I felt this memoir provided yet a wider view of the war and another important perspective, that of a woman.

I loved that the book was peppered with poems, both those of Vera Brittain and Roland Leighton and those that are more widely known of Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen and Alan Seeger. For me, they added to the atmosphere of loss that must be felt when you consider that this is the story of a vanished generation.

I have a rendezvous with Death by Alan Seeger (who kept his rendezvous in 1916)

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear ...
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
This books gave me hope, then promptly trampled that hope several times. However, as a narrative of Brittain's account of the great war, it only makes sense for it to have done that to me. War is tragic, and faught with innocents far to young to endure such horrors, not that anyone is every old enough for that. Vera really touched down on the devastation war brings, and the empty void in your heart you feel as a survivor amongst the aftermath. Wonderful read, just grab lots of tissues. ( )
  roseandisabella | Mar 18, 2022 |
Brittain’s memoir serves as a means to document the suffering and bereavement universally shared in World War I in the hopes of making the death of their loved ones less futile. This became one of the most emotional and widely read war memoirs.
  MWMLibrary | Jan 14, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vera Brittainprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bostridge, MarkIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Campbell, CherylReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Williams, ShirleyPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
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
Dedication
To
R.A.L. and E.H.B.
In Memory
First words
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.
Quotations
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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In 1914 Vera Brittain was eighteen and, as war was declared, she was preparing to study at Oxford. Four years later her life - and the life of her whole generation - had changed in a way that was unimaginable in the tranquil pre-war era. TESTAMENT OF YOUTH, one of the most famous autobiographies of the First World War, is Brittain's account of how she survived the period; how she lost the man she loved; how she nursed the wounded and how she emerged into an altered world. A passionate record of a lost generation, it made Vera Brittain one of the best-loved writers of her time.

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In 1914 Vera Brittain was eighteen and as war was declared she was preparing to study at Oxford.  Four years later her life - and the life of her whole generation - had changed in a way that was unimaginable in the tranquil pre-war peace.  Testament of Youth, one of the most famous autobiographies of the First World War, is her account of how she survived the period; how she lost the man she loved; how she nursed the wounded and how she emerged into an altered world.  This passionate record of a lost generation made Vera Brittain one of the best-loved writers of her time.
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