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. download Testament of Youth UK ed. by Vera Brittain (ISBN: ) from site's Book Store. Everyday low prices and free delivery on eligible orders.
We've lost a bit of that in feminism… We need to reclaim it. As a woman, Brittain was arguably the first to blend emotional resonance with intellectual clarity. She relayed her own life story — first as the daughter of a provincial paper factory owner who struggled to emancipate herself, then as a young woman trying to make sense of the personal ravages wreaked by war. In doing so, she laid out her political beliefs.
The war taught her that you could not live your life in isolation from public events.
But when she writes, the feelings always come first — which may be why the book remains so popular. Although Brittain never believed she would find happiness in a relationship after Roland's death, she did eventually marry the philosopher and political scientist George Catlin in after a courtship initiated by letter.
Shirley Williams , who was born in Chelsea in , three years before Testament of Youth was published, recalls her mother sticking to a punishing writing routine: sitting down at her typewriter at 10am, having already dealt with her correspondence and bills; at 2pm taking a break when she would lead the children around Battersea Park and recite the Latin names of the birds and flowers; then back to her desk until dinner time.
Roland, Edward, Victor and Geoffrey "were as familiar to me as my brother and living friends", she says. Williams breaks off. My mother kept everything. Williams rebelled against this as a teenager: "We'd just take off on our bicycles. My mother would say: 'Where are you going? It got better as she began to realise I was going to survive.
I wonder if, at some level, the capacity for finding things funny had been battered out of her? Occasionally Winifred [Holtby, a lifelong friend and collaborator, and the author of South Riding] could make her laugh, but Winifred was a radiant personality and someone who could enjoy life a lot of the time.
Her radiant happiness got across to my mother. It had wider implications too. For one thing, her husband had to cope with reading his wife's impassioned reminiscence of her former love.
Brittain and Roland Leighton had met for a total of only 17 days, and circumstances meant that much of their relationship had to be conducted by letter.
According to Mark Bostridge, this meant that their fledgling romance was necessarily heightened: "By the end of it, they were looking at each other almost as fictional representations," he says. Leighton emerges from the pages of Testament of Youth as a glamorous, heroic figure, an idealistic public schoolboy who was captain of the Officers' Training Corps at Uppingham School before signing up at the outbreak of war.
He was killed at the age of 20 by a German sniper while repairing barbed wire on a moonlit night in a stretch of no man's land. Brittain never got over his loss. How did George Catlin find it, knowing that his wife had been in love with another man? With a dead person, who died at the peak of their youth, they become frozen in aspic.
My father didn't try to compete. He was a very understanding man. When the second world war broke out, Brittain's critics accused her of collaborating with the Nazis because of her anti-war stance, and the sales of Testament of Youth dropped off. In fact, it later emerged that she was listed in the notorious Nazi "black book", which detailed notable people to be arrested in the event of a successful invasion of Britain by Hitler. Still, her reputation as a writer never regained the popularity it had enjoyed when Testament of Youth was first published.
There were further blows to be suffered. 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.
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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.
Books by Vera Brittain
During those times couples who date go for walks along the countryside, talking about noble things. 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. 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.
Testament of Youth: Vera Brittain's classic, 80 years on
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. Imagine these happening now, to our children! Some more things I learned about that Great War: In between them they have a "no man's land" where only the suicidal go unless they're on attack ; b. Several times Roland, Geoffrey, Victor and Edward were able to get leaves and visit their families and friends; d.
But because it takes days or weeks for letters to reach their destinations, sometimes they arrive when their senders had been dead for days or weeks already; and e.
When Roland died only his personal things--the tunic torn back and front by the bullet which killed him, a khaki vest dark and stiff with blood, a pair of blood-stained breeches slit open at the top--were returned to his mother and sister. Vera described them in his letter to Edward: And I was glad that neither you nor Victor nor anyone who may some day go to the front was there to see.
If you had been, you would have been overwhelmed by the horror of war without its glory. For though he had only worn the things when living, the smell of those clothes was the smell of graveyards and the Dead.
The mud of France which covered them was not ordinary mud; it had not the usual clean pure smell of earth, but it was as though it were saturated with dead bodies--dead that had been dead a long, long time There was his cap, bent in and shapeless out of recognition--the soft cap he wore rakishly on the back of his head--with the badge thickly coated with mud.
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He must have fallen on top of it, or perhaps one of the people who fetched him in trampled on it. Here was Roland's: Before he went to the front he told Vera: It would seem a somewhat cowardly shirking of my obvious duty I feel that I am meant to take an active part in this War. It is to me a very fascinating thing--something, if often horrible, yet very ennobling and very beautiful, something whose elemental reality raises it above the reach of all cold theorising.
After seeing the first of his men get killed he wrote Vera: I did not actually see it--thank heaven. I only found him lying very still at the bottom of the trench with a tiny stream of blood trickling down his cheek into his coatI do not quite know how I felt at that moment. It was not anger--even now I have no feeling of animosity against the man who shot him--only a great pity, and a sudden feeling of impotence.
It is cruel of me to tell you this Then after more fighting his letter to Vera read: Let him who thinks War is glorious, golden thing, who loves to roll forth stirring words of exhortation, invoking Honour and Praise and Valour and Love of Country with as thoughtless and fervid a faith as inspired the priests of Baal to call on their own slumbering deity, let him but look at a little pile of sodden grey rags that cover half a skull and a shin-bone and what might have been Its ribs, or at this skeleton lying on its side, resting half crouching as it fell, perfect but that it is headless, and with the tattered clothing still draped round it; and let him realise how grand and glorious a thing it is to have distilled all Youth and Joy and Life into a foetid heap of hideous putrescence!
Who is there who has known and seen who can say that Victory is worth the death of even one of these? If you are behind the lines you need not worry. If you are at the front your are one of two things. You are either in a danger zone or in a zone which is not dangerous. If you are in a zone which is not dangerous you need not worry.
If you are in a danger zone you are one one of two things; either you are wounded or you are not. If you are not wounded you need not worry. If you are wounded you are one of two things, either seriously wounded or slightly wounded.
If you are slightly wounded you need not worry. If you are seriously wounded one of two things is certain--either you get well or you die. If you get well you needn't worry. If you die you cannot worry, so there is no need to worry about anything at all.
A very moving account of man's stupidity and of an entire generation lost because of it. Vera Brittain wrote other books, including two sequels to this, but this one is her most famous work. She remained a pacifist all her life and died in And yes, that pretty girl in a nurse's uniform in the book's cover was her, taken during the Great War.
View all 14 comments. Whenever I think of the War to-day, it is not as summer but always as winter; always as cold and darkness and discomfort, and an intermittent warmth of exhilarating excitement which made us irrationally exult in all three. Its permanent symbol, for me, is a candle stuck in the neck of a bottle, the tiny flame flickering in an ice-cold draught, yet creating a miniature illusion of light against an opaque infinity of blackness.
The temptation to exploit our young wartime enthusiasm must have been Whenever I think of the War to-day, it is not as summer but always as winter; always as cold and darkness and discomfort, and an intermittent warmth of exhilarating excitement which made us irrationally exult in all three. The temptation to exploit our young wartime enthusiasm must have been immense—and was not fiercely resisted by the military authorities.
A full century after the birth of Vera Brittain, my sister was born, not I. I've grown out of making cracks at the efforts of a previous generation to sell to the contemporary generation words of paper wrapped in the light of the silver screen, for A, there is no point, and B, such remarks keep none of the promises this work provides. So the sayers would rather the current youth spend itself as much as the young of WWI did on blinkered hopes and fruitless massacre than experience a past media within the context of a different form and the modes of a different present.
Good to know. I myself cannot yet realise that each little singing thing that flies near me holds latent in it the power of death for someone. My responsibility is not to take this work as it was once written and confine it precisely within the means and manners of tongues long silent and minds long dead. If that is what you want, go read someone who is paid to do so. As such, I do not expect Brittain or any other of her generation to be able to conceptualize drones, AIDS, and global warming, so I refuse to conceptualize the exigency of imperialism, Orientalism, and xenophobia, always newly adaptive and very rarely today a consequence of pure survival.
There is power in how Brittain scripts out the belly of the beast, twenty five years of the Powers That Be turning on its once beloved lambs and sending them as quickly to the slaughter as the citizens of their colonized domains, but bad faith kills in these self-isolating times of mine. What is necessary now is to see that, on the cusp of my mid-twenties and that final degree in English, my time was already played out a century earlier on the backs of contemporary postcolonial times, and it does no good to focus on similar faces when identical ideals are bleeding and burning and dying in those less staged areas of the world.
True, no woman comes to mind in the halls of those patriarchal monoliths of leadership and genocide, but tell me, fellow feminists who share the color of my skin: Thought was too dangerous; if once I began to think out exactly why my friends had died and I was working, quite dreadful things might suddenly happen.
There's always this tension, you know. True, I considered such a mix masterful in its every turn of letters, poetry, music and journalism, telegrams and speeches of Liberal Halls and the League of Nations, but first it had to survive. It is not dispassionate. It does not mince. It neither pretends towards the conjured ideals of aristocrats with too much time on their hands, nor the apolitical motions of those with the dictionary and the physiognomy to match. You could get wonderfully lost in all the literary references to the much studied Victorians and the much embellished Roaring 20's, but you could also be disgruntled by the sexual harassment at fourteen, the candid talk of venereal disease traded for social stability, even the imperialistic tendencies that jar so determinedly against appeals for peace if you're really up for a challenge.
After all, it is war of the early 20th century, and all's fair in love and chronological excuses. Vera Brittain goes off to read and write and educate, then decides 'twould be a lovely concept to volunteer for death.
The words and rhymes are all very well in the beginning when peace is a granted and love a burgeoning possibility, but then the souls begin to die.
Again and again, and again, the catharsis of healing turned to the automaton of rote, all in order to keep in mind that it is not personal. War, you see, is never personal. It'll starve you and rot you and rape you, but it can no more help its escalation of toxic masculinity and governmental conversions of blood into blood money than can the rich and the poor their man-made imbalance.
One could indeed follow the trail of power relations and concentration of arms back to the socioeconomic entrails of land and politics, but what exactly do you intend to do there? Don't you have better things to do with your life?
Don't you want to live? Why was personality so vulnerable, why did it succumb to such small, humiliating assailants? England, panic-stricken, was frantically raising the military age to fifty It's all very simple, really, but considering how college students are still being funded by military industrial complexes and no one wants to know were ISIL really got their weapons and their training and their hatred, little has changed.
She says that she has never yet written a book without making an enemy Vera Brittain is dead, so I cannot relay to her what her times have left me, what different breeds of indoctrinated brutality I have inherited and how her morals had to be trimmed and weeded and abruptly expanded in order to cope.
Perhaps I would infuriate her, one who five years ago did not conscript herself for healing out of patriotic determination, instead remaining safe and secure in the education of one who destined to create the seeds of the new world and the post-apocalyptic descendant of mustard gas. I may have refuted that path for a rapidly approaching future of an English nature, but what have I achieved in the meantime? A lazy generation, mine. No ruined economies, and not a genocide to speak of.
Leastwise, not yet. Was this really the heart of the conveyor of civilization to primitive peoples, the British Empire, in the post-war summer of , or had we inadvertently strayed into the time of Martin Luther, with his robust views on the uses of women? Yet always, after a tumult I thought, I was forced to conclude that is only by grasping this nettle, danger, that we pluck this flower, safety; that those who flee from emotion, from intimacy, from the shocks and perils attendant upon all close human relationships, end in being attacked by unseen Furies in the ultimate stronghold of their spirit.
This work drained me to the bone. The best ones often do, but this is the sort that will continue to antagonize with its energetic determination and naive morale, confronting my theoretical ethics time and time again with the reality of bandages, tombstones, and the torpedoed sister of the Titanic.
I am not a war veteran, and never plan to be. Brittain's world has grown much smaller since she looked upon its last pages, and the constructions of her peacetime and the evaluations of her justice will never be mine. Long busy days where many meet and part; Crowded aside Remembered hours of hope; And city streets Grown dark and hot with eager multitudes Hurrying homeward whither respite waits.
Light fading where the chimneys cut the sky; Footsteps that pass, Nor tarry at my door. And far away, Behind the row of crosses, shadows black Stretch out long arms before the smouldering sun.
Aug 29, Chrissie rated it really liked it Shelves: I have no question in my mind that this book deserves four stars. The woman, Vera Brittain is a fascinating person and lived through a difficult but interesting time. Following Vera we see the Great War through the eyes of a British middleclass woman. Before the war she studied at Oxford. After the war she continued her studies at Oxford switching from literature to history, worked closely with the League I have no question in my mind that this book deserves four stars.
After the war she continued her studies at Oxford switching from literature to history, worked closely with the League of Nations and supported the feminist movement and pacifism. The autobiography concludes with her marriage in to George Catlin, a dedicated academic of political science. Two people in love but at the same time dedicated, devoted to their professions.
Two who lived through the war, understood that experience and would forever be changed by it. Two who had the courage to go on. Anybody seeking to understand British life before the Great War, during the war and after and how the world was irrevocably changed simply must read this book. You will understand on a personal level. True, you see it only through one person's eyes, Vera's. Yet, she is an intelligent woman. She has humility and she has humor and such courage! One can always question when reading an autobiography if one gets the truth.
I believe you do here. She is very aware of her own shortcomings. Her mission in writing is to help others learn from her own experiences. I am satisfied when I read a biography if I conclude by understanding the character of the person. I am not reading to simply find out what happened in her life. I fully understand why Vera joined the war effort and became a VAD nurse, why she so strongly fought for the rights of women and pacifism.
I don't think it is easy for us of another generation to fully comprehend the world she was born into. The Victorian view of women is foreign to us today, no matter how much we read. We read about expectations related to marriage, propriety, education and restrictions dictated by social norms but can we put ourselves in their shoes? We understand her thought processes and emotions - going from having never seen a naked man to caring for all the physical needs of wounded and dying men at the front.
Men burned, without limbs, suffocating from mustard gas. The book is not graphic, but in holding back and stating the bare minimum more is said than through gushing words of woe.
The book is absolutely excellent in describing the expectations of and limitations on a middleclass woman before the war and the war experience itself - in London, on the front in France, in Malta, even caring for German prisoners of war. Historical events, politics in England, the Versailles Treaty and the work of the League of Nations are all detailed.
Vera sees firsthand the destruction the war has wrought in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary when in , working with the League of Nations, she spent three month traveling, reporting on conditions and sentiments of the people. The book is written in the early s so her first-hand experiences recorded in diaries are enhanced by her knowledge of history.
Her literary knowledge is displayed through quotes and poetry throughout the book. Vera lost four men very close to her. She is in no way unique. This is part of what makes her story so important.
The first time he declared his love for her, he kissed her gloved hand; the day he kissed her bare fingers was the closest they ever came to passion. Leighton made such an indelible impression on Brittain that all her life she regarded him as her love — something that was difficult for her eventual husband George Catlin. Doomed love: She had the kind of steely centre and was clear about what she wanted to achieve. Her relationship with her mother was more complicated, circumscribed by a household routine that saw her mother work in her study all day apart from the hour she walked with her children through Chelsea gardens, when she would point out flora and fauna to them.
Only if someone were dying or the house had fallen down. It was a very disciplined structure. Initially, as a child, Williams wanted more attention. Several of her friends publicly gave her up. She really did suffer at that time.
Now I feel extraordinarily proud of her, proud of her courage. She had an absolutely driving conscience that would not be compromised at all. The film hints at the woman Brittain would become when it shows her standing up for her beliefs at an antagonistic public meeting. That journey, from someone who believed in the nobility of war — who saw it, according to Williams, as being like the stories of King Arthur and his knights that she used to read to her brother — to profound opposition to it, is part of what makes Testament of Youth so compelling.
But its other quality is that in her portrayal of the four brave men she loved, Brittain conveys the value of their beliefs. They remain noble, even if the cause they died for was not. She not only recorded the story of her time, but also spoke to the idealism of all the young, always.
As Rosie Alison puts it: Her story is that in extremis.Certainly the way she evokes the experience of those left behind during the war, especially women, is nowhere done better.
Minds Articles. The first two parts of the book are heartwrenching, her description of the war and of its consequences, of the shattering of the dreams and the lives, of the hopes, the portrat of the realization of the futility of it all are described incisively and beautifully.
Delete comment Cancel. Over the next six years, Testament of Youth sold , copies. Their father was a prosperous businessman.