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Testament of Youth is the first instalment, covering –, in the memoir of Vera Brittain (–). It was published in Brittain's memoir continues with Testament of Experience, published in , and encompassing the years – Between these two books comes Testament of Friendship ( published in. Much of what we know and feel about the First World War we owe to Vera Brittain's elegiac yet unsparing book, which set a standard for memoirists from Martha. Vera Brittain has 40 books on Goodreads with ratings. Vera Brittain's most popular book is Testament of Youth.

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Vera Brittain lost her fiance, brother and two closest male friends in the first world war. She wrote Testament of Youth as a cry of outrage and. Brittain's study of her experience of the first world war as a nurse and then victim of loss remains a powerful anti-war and feminist statement. Buy Testament of Youth UK ed. by Vera Brittain (ISBN: ) from Amazon's Book Store. Everyday low prices and free delivery on eligible orders.

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Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published May 31st by Penguin Classics first published August 28th More Details Original Title.

Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Testament of Youth , please sign up. I had absolutely no empathy for the drippy privileged people in this dreadful book. Why is rated so high.? Connie You missed the whole point of the book.

I'm finding it hard to get through this book. I don't know if it's the writing style or the language of that time. Am I the only one? English is not my first language. Jeslyn You're not the only one, and English is my first language. The postwar section was tough for me, there were points at which I pondered abandoning it. Except for a brief flash at the very end, it seemed that as she got more involved in the League of Nations and political efforts, she became less compelling and passionate to me.

When she and Winifred head to Germany, Austria, France to observe postwar conditions, their attitudes feel almost callous in describing the conditions of occupied areas and the friction between oppressor and oppressed. Her sentences also are jam-packed or overstuffed, it could be argued , which often disrupted the flow, particularly when she would add visual descriptions of people or views from a train, etc.

See all 7 questions about Testament of Youth…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews.

Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Sep 10, Warwick rated it it was amazing Shelves: Vera Brittain grew up in Buxton, where her father owned a couple of paper mills; she was close to her musical brother, had a growing romance with one of his schoolfriends, and fought with her family to be allowed to go to university.

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Her provincial childhood was characteristic of a rather staid but untroubled Edwardian society which offered few opportunities for intelligent women. Then, when she was 20, came the world war. The careful attempt in Testament of Youth to recreate this context — the book begins in the nineteenth century and doesn't end until the s — is what makes it such a powerful read.

When the war comes, it is seen not as some isolated ordeal of shelling and trenches, nor as a political collapse — but as the Apocalypse for an entire society that was already struggling with class relationships and gender imbalances, and whose failure to address these issues was in fact central to the way it faced military conflict.

It's hard to write about this memoir objectively because reading it is such an emotional experience. Day after day it left me drained and speechless, partly in sympathy with the losses she suffered and partly in admiration at her technique. Her narrative voice is absolutely flawless; she finds a dry, amused tone which is drenched in a kind of sad wisdom and which positions her squarely in a tradition of English irony that I adore.

She can be very funny when she needs to be, and she does not over-egg the moments of high drama, well aware of when bare facts will do the job. Throughout the book there is a profound sense of authorial control that I only feel with the greatest writers. Certainly the way she evokes the experience of those left behind during the war, especially women, is nowhere done better.

So dreadfully safe! O, damn the shibboleth Of sex! God knows we've equal personality. Why should men face the dark while women stay To live and laugh and meet the sun each day.

But no one has made me feel the psychological outrage of this as well as Vera Brittain does here, not even Rebecca West.

Desperate to do something, she drops out of her hard-won course at Somerville College, Oxford, in order to enrol as a VAD, where she works first in London, then in Malta, and finally in France. Now here she was stripping men naked, treating venereal disease, and mopping up blood, pus and vomit for twelve hours a day. Given this complete anatomical ignorance, of a kind now hard to imagine, it is all the more astonishing to read such sensitive passages as the following, which I found extraordinarily moving: Short of actually going to bed with [the patients], there was hardly an intimate service that I did not perform for one or another in the course of four years, and I still have reason to be thankful for the knowledge of masculine functioning which the care of them gave me, and for my early release from the sex-inhibitions that even to-day — thanks to the Victorian tradition which up to dictated that a young woman should know nothing of men but their faces and their clothes until marriage pitchforked her into an incompletely visualised and highly disconcerting intimacy — beset many of my female contemporaries, both married and single.

In the early days of the War the majority of soldier-patients belonged to a first-rate physical type which neither wounds nor sickness, unless mortal, could permanently impair, and from the constant handling of their lean, muscular bodies, I came to understand the essential cleanliness, the innate nobility, of sexual love on its physical side.

Although there was much to shock in Army hospital service, much to terrify, much, even, to disgust, this day-by-day contact with male anatomy was never part of the shame. Since it was always Roland whom I was nursing by proxy, my attitude towards him imperceptibly changed; it became less romantic and more realistic, and thus a new depth was added to my love.

What I want to draw attention to here, beyond the emotional impact, is the fact that in there was really no established prose convention under which women could write about men's bodies in this way; Brittain is forging this language for the first time, and that's something she succeeds in doing at many points throughout the book. It is one of the most striking implications of her wonderful and wonderfully undoctrinaire feminism that she is determined to say what is unsaid, and more importantly to explain what is insufficiently understood, about women's experiences of the war and of social pressures in general.

The sense of clear-eyed realism that characterises Brittain's descriptions is reinforced by her rejection of any religious comfort. Her spiritual beliefs constitute a kind of questing agnosticism informed in part by Olive Schreiner's novel The Story of an African Farm , which was a keystone book for her and Roland. But she is convinced that death is final; and at times, when she is thinking about interpersonal duties and responsibilities, she is very inspiring on this subject: And then I remembered, with a startling sense of relief, that there was no resurrection to complicate the changing relationships forced upon men and women by the sheer passage of earthly time.

There was only a brief interval between darkness and darkness in which to fulfil obligations, both to individuals and society, which could not be postponed to the comfortable futurity of a compensating heaven. It's very affecting to see her reach for these lessons in the latter parts of the book. It would have been easy to start this book in , end it in , and make it a true war memoir.

That is not enough for her; it doesn't do the job. This is where society might be able to go next. The whole thing is a colossal achievement, hugely upsetting, but hugely inspiring. It blew the back of my head off. It really should be read. View all 38 comments.

May 07, Steelwhisper rated it it was amazing Shelves: Where to start? I started reading Testament of Youth mainly for the information on WW1, not knowing that apart from suffering heartbreaking losses and being a VAD nurse, Vera Brittain also was a feminist of the first hour and a writer of great astuteness.

In consequence she proceeded to reduce me to openmouthed admiration as early on as her description of youth and life prior to the Great War.

Never before have I truly understood the massive societal changes wrought upon people during that short p Where to start? Never before have I truly understood the massive societal changes wrought upon people during that short phase of time. Never before was I able to appreciate what it truly meant to have no privacy, at all, to be directed in every manner by parents and their peers. Brittain made it accessible to me, by giving me such simple signposts as e.

Nor did I truly grasp what it might mean to an 18 year old VAD nurse to be thrust into a ward filled with men and having to tend to their most private needs, oftentimes themselves.

It made me finally understand some things discussed with friends who grew up in extremely repressed households. Her descriptions of budding love, of Roland, Victor and Geoffrey, and of course her brother Edward, and her unconventional approach to these men, were sweet and all the more ingenious to read when juxtaposed to their later letters from the front depicting how much they changed or wrestled with what they considered their duty.

I could go on and on, especially as I have read, prior to this, enough factual books on WW1 to know just what horrors she was so calmly writing about. A feminist, a pacifist and yet she still managed to display that special kind of stiff upper lip which was and is particular to the British middle and upper classes.

She slips but rarely, this here I consider such a slip: I wish those people who write so glibly about this being a holy War, and the orators who talk so much about going on no matter how long the War lasts and what it may mean, could see a case--to say nothing of 10 cases--of mustard gas in its early stages--could see the poor things burnt and blistered all over with great mustard-coloured suppurating blisters, with blind eyes--sometimes temporally, sometimes permanently--all sticky and stuck together, and always fighting for breath, with voices a mere whisper, saying that their throats are closing and they know they will choke.

For a brief moment that stiff upper lip slips and she lets us see the horror thrust upon her. Brittain convincingly writes about the schism which separates the post-war self from her pre-war self, one which is likely to mark almost everyone of that generation. A note of warning: I cried a lot, for all those young men, for their lovers, sisters, mothers, for the poor men feeling they let down their country and peers because they had to stay at home, for a generation of women confronted with a future alone.

At times I was unable to keep going, simply because I was unable to breathe, I was so clogged up from crying. What to me, child of those who fought and survived in WW2, was the worst was knowing that she was writing this in , just a few months before everything started off again, to the same if not worse result. View all 10 comments. Creo que voy a tardar en poner en orden mis ideas con este libro. View 2 comments.

Sep 27, Paul rated it it was amazing Shelves: This book has been on my to be read list for over thirty years and I really should not have left it this long to read it. It is much better known these days following the recent film and a TV adaptation some years ago.

It shows the horrors of war through the eyes of a woman suffering the This book has been on my to be read list for over thirty years and I really should not have left it this long to read it. It shows the horrors of war through the eyes of a woman suffering the losses of loved ones and nursing some of the seriously wounded and dying. Brittain takes her story to covering her time at Oxford, the post-traumatic stress resulting from her wartime service, her growth as a journalist and writer, her friendship with Winifred Holtby, her work for the League of Nations and ending with her marriage.

Any reading in the area of WW1 should include this book. Brittain takes the reader through the loss of innocence and the changes in society wrought by the war. Most of all it charts the loss of a generation.

Brittain falls in love with Roland and they become engaged to be married. There are brief meetings during leave and painful partings at railway stations. Inevitably death intervenes and one by one Brittain loses them all. Brittain does do much more than tell a tale of sadness and loss.

She is not afraid of feelings and that combination of intellectual vigour and emotion works very well. I think I will probably read the two follow ups, Testament of Friendship and Testament of Experience.

There is nothing I can say about this which has not already been said; one of the best literary works about the First World War.

View all 11 comments. Nov 15, Luffy rated it it was amazing Shelves: Shirley Williams was born in She is in fact The Baroness Williams of Crosby.

The above quote was written to show how progressive the women's rights have become. What Shirley enjoyed in her academic life, Vera h Shirley Williams was born in What Shirley enjoyed in her academic life, Vera had to fight for hers tooth and nail. Vera Brittain was born in She witnessed the coming of the British Empire, and lived long enough to see the fall of the Empire. She lived long enough to experience the existence of The Beatles. It's no surprise then, that Vera Brittain had enough material to fill a book, wall to wall.

Vera's use of the English language is rich, smooth, and candid. It's impossible to guess who her influences are. That's because the preceding generation of authors and poets wrote so differently. Vera's writing style is so hypnotic.

And what she has to say is equally evocative. Testament of Youth is an account of her sojourn as a nurse on the battlefields of The Great War. While Vera's tone is down-to-earth, she knows how to trust to her instincts as a rebel.

That's why her handling of Death is so artistic. I hope that didn't sound too nihilistic. Calamities do befall her. The book covers her life up to The day to day events of the war is uncannily seen through her eyes.

When the deaths come, Vera's emotions are so laden with restraint, that we might be forgiven for thinking we are watching a movie.

Testament of Youth is a great book. When Vera stipulates that her ashes be released over a certain dear's grave, you know that this is a woman who has lived life to the fullest. View all 16 comments. View all 3 comments. Apr 27, Aqsa marked it as to-read Shelves: Just watched the movie based on this memoir.

I can't compare it to the book since I haven't read it; but it really sends out a message. We, humans, have this tendency to forget the horrors we've brought upon ourselves in the past, and a tendency to forget how terrible war can be. Forgiveness we forget, we march to war hoping for honor. Telling us it's the right thing to do.

One side gets hurt, and then it starts working on vengeance until the other side loses something, and then the cycle c Just watched the movie based on this memoir.

One side gets hurt, and then it starts working on vengeance until the other side loses something, and then the cycle continues. We need to put a stop on this endless cycle of revenge. We ought to think if there is another way.


A way no side has to experience so much pain. Say 'No' to war. Let's agree: No more of it. Perhaps some day the sun will shine again, And I shall see that still the skies are blue, And feel one more I do not live in vain, Although bereft of you.

Perhaps the golden meadows at my feet, Will make the sunny hours of spring seem gay, And I shall find the white May-blossoms sweet, Though You have passed away. Perhaps the summer woods will shimmer bright, And crimson roses once again be fair, And autumn harvest fields a rich delight, Although You are not there.

But though kind Time may many joys renew, There is one greatest joy I shall not know Again, because my heart for loss of You Was broken, long ago. View all 13 comments. Vera Brittain was, at that time, a bit younger that my daughter is now. Her elder brother Edward was then also one or two years younger than my son today. Sometimes I still see my children as babies, scratching their backs when they need to relax.

My daughter had just finished her first year of college with excellent grades, missing the Dean's list by a point. At that time, Vera Brittain had also just gotten in Somerville in Oxford on a scholarship. She was doing very well there. Unlike most girl Vera Brittain was, at that time, a bit younger that my daughter is now. Unlike most girls her age, she didn't have marriage and raising a family in mind. She wanted to finish college and become a writer.

Her elder brother Edward, like my son, also had ambitions. He was also at Oxford and dreamed of becoming a successful musician. They were raised in a provincial town north of London. Their father was a prosperous businessman. Edward had very close friends: Geoffrey, Victor and Roland.

The latter, who was going to another Oxford college, fell in love with Vera. During those times couples who date go for walks along the countryside, talking about noble things.

Testament of Youth: Vera Brittain's classic, 80 years on

After such walks, Edward secretly composed Vera a poem dated 19 April You seemed all brown and soft, just like a linnet, Your errant hair had shadowed sunbeams in it, And there shone all April In your eyes.

With your golden voice of tears and laughter Softened into song: What is God, and all for which we're striving? Life is Love, and Love is-- You, dear, you.

Young men like Edward, Victor and Geoffrey rushed to enlist in the army.

Testament of Youth: my mother never got over the loss of her lover

Those who could not be admitted for one reason or another felt shamed. A generation without a hindsight, these fine young men innocently marched towards the meat grinder that was world war one "for God, King and Country. During one of the few times Roland was granted leave they became engaged. They exchanged letters: Roland while in the muddy trenches, Vera in- between attending to the wounded and the dying. They sent each other wonderful poems they chanced upon or remembered.

Sometimes they would be inspired enough to write some. Vera kept a diary. In one poignant letter Vera wrote Roland, she remarked that they are like old people for the kept on reminiscing about the past, the few times they had been together. They couldn't talk about the future which was bleak and dim: Indeed death came. Roland was the first to go. He was fixing a barbed wire fence in their trenches when he was badly shot. He was immediately given a large dose of morphine soldiers going to the front first go shopping: Doctors later tried to operate on him and saw his spine completely shattered.

Had he miraculously survived, he would have been paralyzed from his waist down. The year-old Vera could only grieve for him with as much sorrow and intensity as a lost first love. She wrote the dead Roland a poem entitled "Perhaps" google this and see it in Vera's own handwriting: Perhaps the golden meadows at my feet Will make the sunny hours of spring seem gay, And I shall find the white May-blossoms sweet, Though You have passed away.

Victor, who would have entered Cambridge had the war not broken out, was next. He was blinded by a gunshot wound in the head. He survived for a while and was trying to master Braille when something "clicked" inside his head then he later succumbed. Just a year before the war ended Edward himself was killed after retaking a position during a battle.

He was shot by a sniper in the head and died almost instantly. He was only twenty-two. It is a labour of love for all concerned. Brittain, the mother of Shirley Williams , leading light of the Liberal Democrats, was preparing to study at Oxford when war broke out. She had struggled long and hard against her conventional, well-heeled family to get to Somerville the college for which, in the new film, Trinity stands in , teaching herself Greek and sitting the entrance exam without the benefit of coaching.

But her dreams were about to be dashed. Vera, wanting initially to emulate their courage and, when she understood the horror of the war, share their agony, gave up her university place and went to work as a nurse, first in London and then on the front, caring for the wounded in strength-sapping conditions. As Rosie Alison of Heyday Films says: It is the power of keeping faith with the dead. Testament of Youth: Exclusive picture gallery.

Focus on the young stars. Alison is co-producer and prime mover of this new film version of Testament of Youth a co-production between BBC Films and Heyday , which stars Alicia Vikander as a beautiful, febrile, strong-willed Brittain and Kit Harington from Game of Thrones as her doomed love Leighton. That has been true for readers ever since it was published. Its courage and honesty — Brittain refuses to let anyone off easily, least of all herself — make it essential reading.

I first encountered it after its last screen outing, when it was made into an acclaimed five-part series for the BBC in , starring Cheryl Campbell. Now the film will bring the book to the next generation.

Laurie Sparham. Bostridge is not an unqualified admirer of Brittain. If you read her diaries from that period, it is pretty unattractive. The depth of feeling Brittain brought to her life — caught in a multilayered script by Calendar Girls screenwriter Juliette Towhidi — was part of the attraction of the role for Vikander.It is every bit as good as I'd remembered when I read it first about twenty years ago.

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. Vera Brittain taught millions of people that you didn't have to put up with war if it wasn't a just war. In between, there's the grief of a war, it's loss, the anguish and the many years of grief and healing, not only for individuals but for Nations. When it was later published in America, the New York Times reviewer wrote that Brittain's autobiographical account was "honest… revealing… heartbreakingly beautiful".

While Vera's tone is down-to-earth, she knows how to trust to her instincts as a rebel. If life chose to deal me a new series of blows through G. Drolshagen Translator.

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