When war broke out in August 1914, 21-year-old Vera Brittain
was planning on enrolling at Somerville College, Oxford. Her father told her she wouldn't be able to go: "In a few months' time we should probably all find ourselves in the Workhouse!" he opined. Brittain had hoped to escape the Northern provinces, but the war seemingly dashed her plans. "It is not, perhaps, so very surprising that the War at first seemed to me an infuriating personal interruption rather than a world-wide catastrophe."
Her father eventually relented, however, and she was allowed to attend. By the end of her first year, she had fallen in love with a young soldier and resolved to become active in the war effort by volunteering as a nurse--turning her back on what she called her "provincial young-ladyhood." Brittain suffered through 12-hour days by reminding herself that nothing she endured was worse than what her fiancé, Roland, experienced in the trenches. Roland was expected home on leave for Christmas 1915; on December 26, Brittain received news that he had been killed at the front. Ten months later Brittain herself was sent to Malta and then to France to serve in the hospitals nearer the front, where she witnessed firsthand the horrors of battle. When peace finally came, Brittain had also lost her brother Edward and two close friends. As she walked the streets of London on November 11, 1918--Armistice Day--she felt alone in the crowds:
For the first time I realised, with all that full realisation meant, how completely everything that had hitherto made up my life had vanished with Edward and Roland, with Victor and Geoffrey. The War was over; a new age was beginning; but the dead were dead and would never return.
First published in 1933, Testament of Youth established Brittain as one of the best-loved authors of her time. Her crisp, clear prose and searing honesty make this unsentimental memoir of a generation scarred by war a classic. --Sunny Delaney
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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