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 Gellhorn to Lillian Hellman Abandoning her studies at Oxford into enlist as a nurse in the armed services, Brittain served in London, in Malta, and on the Western Front By war s end she had lost virtually everyone she loved Testament of Youth is both a record of what she lived through and an elegy for a vanished generation Hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as a book that helped both form and define the mood of its time, it speaks to any generation that has been irrevocably changed by war


10 thoughts on “Testament of Youth

  1. Warwick Warwick says:

    It s another irony of that most ironic of conflicts that the greatest account of how 1914 18 was lived comes not from a male writer out of the trenches, or from some politician familiar with the negotiations, but instead from a middle class girl from Derbyshire who experienced the war first as a waiting fianc e and later as a volunteer nurse 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 hi It s another irony of that most ironic of conflicts that the greatest account of how 1914 18 was lived comes not from a male writer out of the trenches, or from some politician familiar with the negotiations, but instead from a middle class girl from Derbyshire who experienced the war first as a waiting fianc e and later as a volunteer nurse 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 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 1930s 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 Her use of contemporary diaries and letters allows her to recreate with extraordinary effect the prolonged apprehension , the mental strain, of constantly waiting for telegrams or letters from the front to learn whether one s friends and family are still whole or not Even now, she comments, writing in 1933, I cannot work comfortably in a room from which it is possible to hear the front door bell As her brother, her fianc and her friends all troop off to fight, Brittain realises that she is suffering, like so many women in 1914, from an inferiority complex This is something that many female writers of the time have tried to analyse I kept going back to a poem called Drafts by Nora Bomford in Scars Upon My Heart So dreadfully safe O, damn the shibbolethOf sex God knows we ve equal personality.Why should men face the dark while women stayTo 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 The stark realities that nursing represented for a sheltered, middle class girl are brilliantly evoked this was a time, she points out, when all girls clothing appeared to be designed by their elders on the assumption that decency consisted in leaving exposed to the sun and air no part of the human body that could possibly be covered with flannel Now here she was stripping men naked, treating venereal disease, and mopping up blood, pus and vomit for twelve hours a day.Sex was not, I think, a strong force in Vera Brittain s life, at least her early life as described here she was not very interested in boys growing up, and her attraction to her fianc Roland was primarily an artistic and intellectual one they had got engaged almost without having experienced any physical contact at all Given this complete anatomical ignorance, of a kind now hard to imagine, it is all theastonishing 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 1914 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 andrealistic, 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 1933 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, andimportantly to explain what is insufficiently understood, about women s experiences of the war and of social pressures in general This is not to say that she neglects how her male friends experienced the war quite to the contrary, she is committed to understanding and memorialising what she memorably calls the tragic, profound freemasonry of those who accepted death together overseas but by focusing elsewhere she somehow makes itprofound and tragic than I ve ever felt it before.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 1883 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 1914, end it in 1919, and make it a true war memoir That is not enough for her it doesn t do the job She keeps going, through the numb disillusion , through the indictment of a civilisation , on through the 1920s and into the 1930s, until she reaches a point where she can start to say, This is where I might be able to go next 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


  2. Steelwhisper Steelwhisper says:

    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 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 phase of time Brittain writes so that you are there with her, that inevitably you get reminded of your grandparents and their often tentative and still excruciatingly backward stance in many personal matters.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.g the fact that no woman was ever private, to herself and alone except very early in the morning and late in the night That indeed a lot of women didn t rise very early because they had to, but because they cherished those few moments they could have to themselves.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 Up to then any middle class girl wouldn t have been aware of male anatomy, yet suddenly she would have to deal with helping arm amputated to take a leak and perforce also discover the pure plumbings of the male sexuality and what it might mean in terms of her later duties as a wife 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 theingenious to read when juxtaposed to their later letters from the front depicting how much they changed or wrestled with what they considered their duty That also was something I, a post WW2 child with a sound hatred of warfare, finally grasped, which was so utterly heartbreaking because it meant that so many, many gallant young men on any of the sides had been viciously misled.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 By the end of the war she had lost everything dear and close, her beloved fianc , her brother, her best friends 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 But I d inevitably come back to the book, pressing on, reading on, wishing to learn where it all ended for her What to me, child of those who fought and survived in WW2, was the worst was knowing that she was writing this in 1933, just a few months before everything started off again, to the same if not worse result.I very much recommend this book for a personal look at this war, for insights which you won t find in the usual books written by men and less feministic women and for a close look at what it meant to be a woman born in the Victorian era


  3. Luffy Luffy says:

    Shirley Williams was born in 1930 She is in fact The Baroness Williams of Crosby.She was also Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, from 2001 and 2004.From 2007 to 2010, she acted as Adviser on Nuclear Proliferation to Prime Minister Gordon Brown The above quote was written to show how progressive the women s rights have become More pertinently, Shirley is the daughter of Vera Brittain, who is the author of Testament of Youth What Shirley enjoyed in her academic life, Vera h Shirley Williams was born in 1930 She is in fact The Baroness Williams of Crosby.She was also Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, from 2001 and 2004.From 2007 to 2010, she acted as Adviser on Nuclear Proliferation to Prime Minister Gordon Brown The above quote was written to show how progressive the women s rights have become More pertinently, Shirley is the daughter of Vera Brittain, who is the author of Testament of Youth What Shirley enjoyed in her academic life, Vera had to fight for hers tooth and nail.Vera Brittain was born in 1893 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 1930.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


  4. Paul Paul says:

    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 is the account of Vera Brittain s wartime experiences, from a sheltered middle class upbringing to starting at Somerville College Oxford and then to volunteer work as a VAD nurse in Britain, France and Malta 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 is much better known these days following the recent film and a TV adaptation some years ago It is the account of Vera Brittain s wartime experiences, from a sheltered middle class upbringing to starting at Somerville College Oxford and then to volunteer work as a VAD nurse in Britain, France and Malta 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 1925 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 We are introduced to Vera s brother Edward and his friends Roland, Geoffrey and Victor who all went to Uppingham School 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 It is heart rending and being so well written adds to the impact as does Brittain s poetry, which is included throughout Brittain does do muchthan tell a tale of sadness and loss She doesn t portray herself as a victim because her feminism and determination to make a difference shine through It is interesting to chart the development of Brittain s thinking from her conservative middle class background to her espousing of pacifism and socialism after the war She weaves together the personal and political very well and concludes that she doesn t have to put up with the outrage of society sending its sons to their death and spends the rest of her life fighting for peace Brittain s writing has intellectual force and clarity 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 Particularly Friendship which relates to Brittain s friendship with Winifred Holtby 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


  5. Sawsan Sawsan says:

    This book is great and painful, a memoir by Vera Brittain, the English writer, mostly a wartime memoir based on her experiences during the First World WarBritain was an Oxford student when World War I began, volunteered as a nurse and was a witness on the vicious war and its victims, lost two of her loved ones her brother and fiance after the war she lived in a state of despair and she never completely gets over their death and war scenes years later she became a journalist, novelist, and a spea This book is great and painful, a memoir by Vera Brittain, the English writer, mostly a wartime memoir based on her experiences during the First World WarBritain was an Oxford student when World War I began, volunteered as a nurse and was a witness on the vicious war and its victims, lost two of her loved ones her brother and fiance after the war she lived in a state of despair and she never completely gets over their death and war scenes years later she became a journalist, novelist, and a speaker as a feminist and pacifist


  6. Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly says:

    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 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 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 After such walks, Edward secretly composed Vera a poem dated 19 April 1914 Down the long white road we walked together,Down between the grey hills and the heather,Where the tawny crestedPlover cries.You seemed all brown and soft, just like a linnet,Your errant hair had shadowed sunbeams in it,And there shone all AprilIn your eyes.With your golden voice of tears and laughterSoftened into song Does aught come afterLife, you asked, When life isLaboured through What is God, and all for which we re striving Sweetest sceptic, we were born for living.Life is Love, and Love is You, dear, you World war one then broke out 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 Vera left Somerville and volunteered as a nurse 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 death could come at any moment for Roland.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 one of the items they never forgot to buy was morphine 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 20 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 some day the sun will shine again,And I shall see that still the skies are blue,And feel onceI do not live in vain,Although bereft of You.Perhaps the golden meadows at my feetWill 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 knowAgain, because my heart for loss of YouWas broken, long ago Geoffrey, the handsomest of the four, perished in a battle 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.Imagine these happening now, to our children Somethings I learned about that Great War a there was the so called front where contending armies face each other with their trenches and fortifications extending miles and miles from end to end In between them they have a no man s land where only the suicidal go unless they re on attack b most deaths were delivered by bombs from air and land , gunfire during attacks , sniper fire and disease c leaves are granted to soldiers Several times Roland, Geoffrey, Victor and Edward were able to get leaves and visit their families and friends d letters can be exchanged between those in the front and their families at home 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 a soldier dies in battle his body is buried at or near the place he was killed Roland s was in a remote mountainous place somewhere in Italy 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 Everything was damp and worn and simply caked with mud 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 He must have fallen on top of it, or perhaps one of the people who fetched him in trampled on it Both combatants and noncombatants thinking about the war evolved as it progressed Here was Roland s 1 Before he went to the front he told Vera I don t think in the circumstances I could easily bring myself to endure a secluded life of scholastic vegetation in college 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 2 After seeing the first of his men get killed he wrote Vera One of my men has just been killed the firstI 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 coat I 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 3 Then afterfighting his letter to Vera read The dug outs have been nearly all blown in, the wire entanglements are a wreck, and in among the chaos of twisted iron and splintered timber and shapeless earth are the fleshless, blackened bones of simple men who poured out their red, sweet wine of youth unknowing, for nothingtangible than Honour or their Country s Glory or another s Lust of Power 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 Indeed, after years of fighting and dying there came a point where the soldiers, so full of glorious notions at the beginning, didn t know any what the war was all about, the horror of it having made everything seemed meaningless The British Expeditionary Force had an Army marching song sung to the tune of Auld Lang Syne We re here becauseWe re here becauseWe re here becauseWe re here And from the French trenches came this philosophical tract When you are a soldier you are one of two things, either at the front or behind the lines 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 This is said to be the only book about world war one written by a woman 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 1970.And yes, that pretty girl in a nurse s uniform in the book s cover was her, taken during the Great War


  7. Aqsa (On Hiatus) Aqsa (On Hiatus) says:

    Just watched the 2014 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 2014 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 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 No to killing Let s agree Noof it Perhaps some day the sun will shine again,And I shall see that still the skies are blue,And feel oneI 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 knowAgain, because my heart for loss of YouWas broken, long ago


  8. Aubrey Aubrey says:

    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 bee 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 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 Nineteen years later, while aware of the centennial reenactments and commemorative capitalism clustering around the secondary war year of 19 20 15, discovering this tome wrapped in a movie adaptation cover still startled and, farsurprisingly, fatigued 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 don t mind anything really so long as I don t lose my personality or even have it temporarily extinguished.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 is that what you really wantI was the only woman returning, bringing with me, no doubt terrifying thought the psychological fruit of my embarrassing experiences.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 On the one hand, this is one of the works by women that make up a littlethan 20% of the much bandied about 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, but it follows the trail that women are not worth writing much beyond the recording of their every so often singular experiences and unusual circumstances 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 excusespeople persist in saying that God made the war, when there are such inventions of the Devil about as though we could somehow compensate the dead by remembering them regardless of expense. 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 nohelp 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 A lie, when I consider Novel Without a Name, The Guest, Almanac of the Dead, The Fire Next Time, Beloved, Guant namo Diary, violence in all its faces and communal agony in all its places, PTSD of a multigenerational variety and war crimes in all their sacrosanctity, but the hippies that preached peace were white supremacists of aculturally appropriative and sexual assault nature, so forgive me if I find the situationcomplicated than Support The Troops and God Bless AmericaWhy is it that all my university mentors want me to do research work at the expense of fiction, and my literary mentors fiction at the expense of history 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 1922, 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 No 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 Can one make a book out of the very essence of one s self Perhaps so, if one was left with one s gift stripped bare of all that made it worth having, and nothing else was left THE SUPERFLUOUS WOMANGhosts crying down the vistas of the years,Recalling wordsWhose echoes long have died,And kind moss grownOver the sharp and blood bespattered stonesWhich cut our feet upon the ancient ways But who will look for my coming Long busy days where many meet and part Crowded asideRemembered hours of hope And city streetsGrown dark and hot with eager multitudesHurrying homeward whither respite waits But who will seek me at nightfall 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 blackStretch out long arms before the smouldering sun But who will give me my children


  9. Chrissie Chrissie says:

    I have no question in my mind that this book deserves four stars Why The woman, Vera Brittain 18931970 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 She was a VAD Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse in England, France and Malta 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 Why The woman, Vera Brittain 18931970 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 She was a VAD Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse in England, France and Malta 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 of Nations and supported the feminist movement and pacifism The autobiography concludes with her marriage in 1925 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 A young woman s total lack of privacy is something hard for us to comprehend We read about expectations related to marriage, propriety, education and restrictions dictated by social norms but can we put ourselves in their shoes The book gives you that by looking closely at Vera s experiences 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 minimumis said than through gushing words of woe Vera is the perfect illustration of the British attribute of keeping a stiff upper lip 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 Vera s switch in studies from literature to history is important 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 1924, 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 1930s 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 book assumes that you already know about rather than informs you about famed personages and historical events British vernacular and many acronyms are used I would have appreciated help through explanatory notes I did not recognize all the people mentioned Some of the lines feel dated The writing is very British On the positive side, the description of places is sometimes stunningly beautiful The author s own poetry is included She also published two novels She worked as a journalist too.I am giving the written book four stars, but not the audiobook format I thoroughly detested the narration of the audiobook by Sheila Mitchell Vera is a young woman and her insecurities are evident The lines of the book show that she has humility and humor One would never guess that from listening to this narrator Instead she sounds like a pompous matron sententious, brusque and self assured It annoyed me to no end that the narration didn t fit the lines of the written text The narrator s intonation of Vera portrays a character very different from the character drawn by the words in the book I spent hours trying to see if I was misinterpreting something, but I don t think I am In addition, many words were almost impossible to decipher without listening several times It is not pleasant to have to guess from the context the word being said Do not choose the audiobook if you choose to read this book After of the book Talk about the British attribute of having a stiff upper lip That is Vera Brittain described in three words Actually this behavior says muchthan exclamations of moaning and complaining


  10. Sara Sara says:

    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 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 could have 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 actually 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 poem, both those of Vera Brittain and Roland Leighton and those that arewidely 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 DeathAt some disputed barricade,When Spring comes back with rustling shadeAnd apple blossoms fill the air I have a rendezvous with DeathWhen Spring brings back blue days and fair.It may be he shall take my handAnd lead me into his dark landAnd close my eyes and quench my breath It may be I shall pass him still.I have a rendezvous with DeathOn some scarred slope of battered hill,When Spring comes round again this yearAnd the first meadow flowers appear.God knows twere better to be deepPillowed 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 DeathAt 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.