In 1915 Vera Brittain abandoned her studies at Oxford to enlist as a nurse in the armed services. She served in a number of World War theatres - in London, Malta and at the western front in France. By the war's end, all those close to her were dead, and she had witnessed the results of modern combat, the destruction and the suffering. Focusing on the men and women who came of age as the war broke out, Brittain explores their politics, hopes and the fatal idealism.
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In 1914 Vera Brittain was 21 years old, and an undergraduate student at Somerville College, Oxford. When war broke out in August of that year, Brittain "temporarily" disrupted her studies to enrol as a volunteer nurse, nursing casualties both in England and on the Western Front. The next four years were to cause a deep rupture in Brittain's life, as she witnessed not only the horrors of war first hand, but also experienced the quadruple loss of her fiancÚ, her brother, and two close friends. Testament of Youth is a powerfully written, unsentimental memoir which has continued to move and enthral readers since its first publication in 1933. Brittain, a pacifist since her First World War experiences, prefaces the book with a fairy tale, in which Catherine, the heroine, encounters a fairy godmother and is given the choice of having either a happy youth or a happy old age. She selects the latter and so her fate is determined: "Now this woman," warns the tale, "was the destiny of poor Catherine." And we find as we delve deeper into the book that she was the destiny of poor Vera too.Review:
Vera Brittain's heart-rending account of the way her generation's lives changed is still as shocking and moving as ever. ( STELLA MAGAZINE, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)
Like the much-misunderstood poppy, Testament both memorializes and warns... to remain uninformed is actually life-threatening. ( TLS)
it was a surprise to pick her book up now and discover how very good it is. (Diana Athill The Guardian)
sublimely moving... this is a truly great book... should be compulsory reading for the nation's debauched and aimless yobs and yobettes (Val Hennessy DAILY MAIL)
essential reading, not just as an anti-war polemic but as a portrait of a whole generation of young people who were totally ill-prepared and whose lives were utterly changed within four momentous years. ( HISTORICAL NOVELS REVIEW)
brilliantly captures the protracted horrors of a war into which her generation was preciptated unprepared... as a personal and social document of its turbulent times, written from the viewpoint of a serious and reflective young woman, this autobiographical work fully merits rediscovery. ( CATHOLIC HERALD)
Everyone should read this book. Like all true classics, it has something to tell us all, one generation after another. And this handsome new edition benefits from photographic illustrations and an elegant preface by Shirley Williams, Vera Brittain's distinguished daughter. If you have tears, prepare to share them now. ( TRIBUNE)
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