Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain.

Testament of Youth is the first part of Vera Brittain's autobiography that was first published in 1933 and covers her years from 1900 (from the age of 7) to 1925 (age 32). It is an incredible book, so much so I don't honestly know where to begin. I've actually been putting off writing this review because of that - all I feel I can say is just how very good it is!

I think one of the reasons I found it so impressive is because it encapsulated the effect of the First World War on the average British person. At the start Vera Brittain was planning to go to Oxford University despite feeling the pressures many young women felt in the Edwardian era that she must find herself a husband and live a 'proper' life as a wife. At the end of the book, her brother, her fiance, and several of her friends were dead and she, along with the rest of the country, was coming to terms with what had happened to her country, her family and friends, her hopes and ambitions, and her life. The contrast between the beginning and end is stark and in Testament of Youth we see the emotional and physical upheaval of war. It is, for that alone, a supremely forceful book.

On top of that, the writing. It is so very well-written with an air of intimacy, there's a feeling that in reading it Vera Brittain is addressing the individual reader directly, confiding in them almost. It's heartbreaking but not sentimental and it's thorough but not excessive. It's highly informative and I learned a great deal about the daily life of a volunteer nurse (she worked in England as well as France and Malta). There's also enough literary references to keep even the biggest book nerd happy! It really is an outstanding work and it gives an excellent account of what is now referred to as the Lost Generation, but for now it was too great for me to take in properly. In short, if you have the book or can get the book, stop everything and read it / buy it and read it. I will without a doubt be re-reading it myself in the not so distant future. 

Comments

  1. I've long wished to read this, thank you for pushing it further up the list!

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    1. I'm thrilled that this classic memoir is getting so much attention and love in the blogosphere at the moment. It has stayed with me for years and, like you, know that I will not only reread it one day soon, but i also plan to read the follow up, Testament of Friendship.

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    2. Brona, I've just finished Testament of Friendship and it is on the same level for me as Testament of Youth. Both stand right beside Gone with the Wind now as my top favorites. These two are the only two that have ever reached Mitchell status. Testament of Friendship is beautiful -- different, but absolutely beautiful. I strongly recommend it. :) x

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    3. I'm really looking forward to Testament of Friendship as well! And ireadthatinabook - I hope you love Testament of Youth as much as we did when you read it :D

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  2. i've lately read several positive reviews of this, so i'll download it: tx for the recommend...

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    1. No problem, hope you get to it soon :)

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  3. My second read was better than my first, o, because I was also so overcome by the story on first read that I could barely process it. I love your description of Brittain's writing: lovely, elegant, and yet somehow very intimate. I'm so happy you appreciated this one. I knew you would. x

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    1. Thank you so much for hosting the read-along! I'm indebted to you <3

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  4. o, I expected a super long post from you, but instead I sense you are at a loss for words; it was that remarkable. I totally understand.

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    1. Yes, I was rather - all I could think about was "This is SO. GOOD." I'll have to re-read it soon! :D

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