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Testament of Youth

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4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  4,911 Ratings  ·  606 Reviews
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 in 1915 to 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 ever ...more
Paperback, 688 pages
Published May 31st 2005 by Penguin Classics (first published 1933)
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Michelle Jimenez It has been difficult to get into this book, especially as she can come off a bit pretentious even when she claims she's not. However, I am enjoying…moreIt has been difficult to get into this book, especially as she can come off a bit pretentious even when she claims she's not. However, I am enjoying it now that there seems to be more of a continuous storyline. (less)

Community Reviews

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Warwick
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 fiancée 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 ...more
Steelwhisper
May 07, 2012 Steelwhisper rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwi, 5-brilliant
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
...more
Paul
Sep 27, 2015 Paul rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-one
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 ...more
Luffy
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
...more
Magrat Ajostiernos
Videoreseña: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFD3w...

Creo que voy a tardar en poner en orden mis ideas con este libro.
Hay partes de las memorias de Brittain que me han impresionado mucho, personas que aquí aparecen a través de cartas, diarios y recuerdos que tampoco olvidaré, pero por otro lado he sentido durante todo el libro cierto malestar porque por un lado la propia Vera Brittain me parece digna de admiración y compasión, desde luego fue una mujer impresionante, tremendamente adelantada a
...more
Aubrey
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
...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
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
...more
Chrissie
Aug 29, 2012 Chrissie rated it really liked it
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
...more
Petra
Dec 21, 2016 Petra rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Much more than a book about a person's experience in a war. Although at times a bit tedious to read (lots of direct quotes from letters, for example), Vera moves from a rather pampered, sheltered, middle-class girl to an articulate, understanding, educated, caring woman through war, loss, deprivation, work, awareness and thought. She takes in and considers all sides and ideas, becoming in the end a strong, independent, loving woman.
This story take us to her marriage to who appears to be a warm,
...more
Kirstine
"Down the long white road we walked together,
Down between the grey hills and the heather,
Where the tawny-crested
Plover cries.

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: 'Does aught come after
Life,' you asked, 'When life is Laboured through?
What is God, and all for which we're striving?'
'Sweetest sceptic, we were born for living.
Life is Love,
...more
Paola
Feb 13, 2013 Paola rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiography, wwi, 2014
I always thought of Testament of Youth as a war book, but this book is in fact much more than that - yes, the central part of the book (which consists of three parts) does recount Vera Brittain's first hand experience of the Western Front, where she served as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse, but this is also in fact the watershed between the society that was before, and the society to come after.
Surely Vera Brittain wasn't the only girl brought up in a wealthy upper middle class by Victo
...more
Vicki Seldon
Jan 09, 2012 Vicki Seldon rated it it was amazing
Now that Downton Abbey Season 2 has premiered with so much of revolving around cataclysmic tragedy and change caused by WWI, my thoughts turn back to this book. Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain's memoir of life, love, and loss during WWI first came to my attention because of Masterpiece Theater which serialized it at least 20 years ago. In 2010, I read her memoir again and I may reread it a third time as I also experience these events through the fictional characters of Downton Abbey. If you ha ...more
Elizabeth
This book is without a doubt one of the best I've read on the subject of the First World War and it's devastating effects, this time from the perspective of those women who experienced an equal amount of conflict and emotional turmoil after signing up as VAD's. We follow Vera Brittain through her sheltered childhood in Buxton, the constraints of her engagement to Roland Leighton, her difficult and dangerous years spent nursing in both London and France, before reaching her return to Oxford and t ...more
Courtney Johnston
Nov 19, 2011 Courtney Johnston rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned, history
I tried really hard, but after 132 pages I'm giving up.

Brittain's book is regarded as a classic of World War One memoir, and I don't doubt that it is. Brittain left Oxford (having fought her family and won a scholarship to attend) after a year to become a V.A.D in 1915. In the war she lost four men very close to her (including her brother and her fiance) and saw many of the bodily horrors of combat. After the war she returned to Oxford and became a well-known pacifist, feminist and author.

But as
...more
Tiffany Campbell
Jan 13, 2013 Tiffany Campbell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, bookgroup
This book changed everything. I had read everything on WWi. But it was not until this author that the reality of the situation hit me. Yes I had read about the lost generation and understood the horror. But it was not until she is back after the war studying and she is going to see her parents and she realizes in its full desolation that there is no one in the entire world left alive that holds the same memories. Her brother is dead her fiancé is dead all her contemporaries are dead. It is as if ...more
Caroline
Oct 06, 2015 Caroline added it
Shelves: memoirs
From page 645, while Brittain is touring devastated Central and Eastern Europe to gather material for her occupation as journalist and lecturer in support of the League of Nations

It did not seem, perhaps, as though we, the War generation, would be able to do all that we had once hoped for the actual rebuilding of civilization. I understood now that the results of the War would last longer than ourselves; it was obvious, in central Europe, that its consequences were deeper rooted, and farther rea
...more
Angie
Aug 31, 2014 Angie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember when I was a school girl being given a beautiful book, a prize from Shirley Williams who was then the local MP for the Liverpool suburb I grew up in. Her speech given to the gathering made an impression on me due to her remembrance of her mother who had made a great stance for the emancipation of women during the early 20th century. She was of course Vera Brittain.

Since then I always knew I would read this book at some point but have never got round to it until this year, to mark the
...more
Irene
Dec 22, 2016 Irene rated it liked it
Brittain was just beginning her studies at Oxford when WWI broke out. This is her memoir of a young woman maturing in those turbulent and painful years. As the men she knows and loves go to fight and die in the trenches, she volunteers with the Red Cross to serve in military hospitals. This memoir extends several years after the conclusion of the war as she grapples with new understanding of the fragility of life, the freedom for and empowerment of women just being sought, the dawning awareness ...more
bookslover_roxana
Jul 28, 2015 bookslover_roxana rated it it was amazing
One of the most beautiful books I've ever read ..... Stunning
Noha
Dec 25, 2015 Noha rated it it was amazing
I'm too overwhelmed to write a proper review of this book. It gets you emotionally involved in it so deep that you keep thinking about it even when you're not reading it. How real the relationships were..how honest those feelings were..and how it all went to waste for something bigger than all of them. Vera & Roland's letters to each other were especially beautiful & heartwarming. Their choice of words & its combination of tenderness & sophistication spoke volumes of how beautifu ...more
Debbie Robson
Jul 05, 2011 Debbie Robson rated it it was amazing
I've long heard of this book and presumed that it was such a classic because Brittain was (unfortunately) in the right position to write such a book ie working in the nursing service during WWI and secondly losing all the major males in her life except her father. But the book is much more than that. Brittain is an intelligent and gifted writer who manages somehow to write about the most harrowing of ordeals with an acute eye and a sense of balance that is surprising.
I was only going to skim th
...more
Claire
(10/10) I am sitting here struggling to put into words my feelings about this book having just finished it. At once witty, insightful, heartbreaking, honest and bittersweet this is by far the best book I have ever read. Very rarely am I so moved that I have had to physically close the book and walk away to compose myself, if affected me that much on more than one occasion.

This is an absolutely essential read and I cannot believe it took a film for me to know it existed. My copy is destined to be
...more
Laura
From IMDb:
A British woman recalls coming of age during World War I - a story of young love, the futility of war, and how to make sense of the darkest times.


A movie was made based on this book: Testament of Youth (2014), with Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Taron Egerton .


Joanna
May 28, 2011 Joanna rated it it was amazing
Out there, we've walked quite friendly up to Death, —
Sat down and eaten with him, cool and bland, —
Pardoned his spilling mess-tins in our hand.
We've sniffed the green thick odour of his breath, —
Our eyes wept, but our courage didn't writhe.
He's spat at us with bullets and he's coughed
Shrapnel. We chorused when he sang aloft,
We whistled while he shaved us with his scythe.

Oh, Death was never enemy of ours!
We laughed at him, we leagued with him, old chum.
No soldier's paid to kick against
...more
Eleanor
Very powerful. In the section covering the Great War, the feeling of dread of the loss of one young man after another is almost palpable. The blows of those losses were of course repeated endlessly in all the countries involved in that disastrous conflict. It is a wonder that people who had experienced that were able to pick up their shattered lives and make something of them after it was over.

The section covering Brittain's life after the end of the War is interesting because of her involvement
...more
Muhammad Nusair
Aug 05, 2015 Muhammad Nusair rated it really liked it
I haven't read a biography that deeply touched me like this one. The story of Vera is the story of our entire generation, although it took place a century ago. History is not always written by victors, sometimes it's written by those who have suffered the most. The memoirs of Vera Brittain during the first great war will remain one of the most important books in the history of mankind.
Petra Uusimaa
I was inspired to read this book after I attended a lecture about feminism and pacifism; I knew immediately that the book is something I'll like very much. I wasn't disappointed. I loved the book very dearly and found it very interesting.
Claire McAlpine
That Vera Brittain chose to name her autobiography a Testament, at first seems like an assertion of her intellectual inclinations, particularly in light of the decision she made to pause her hi-brow Oxford University studies when the First World War began as her closest friends, her fiancé Roland and brother Edward all signed up to participate, one by one departing for France.

She had fought hard to be accepted into Oxford, at a time when women were not exactly welcome, her own family and many of
...more
Sheila
While I feel this book was massively too long, and could have been greatly edited down, I do appreciate the author's story, and am happy to have read this. I now have a much better understanding of what life was like for a young woman (or at least a young British woman) during World War I.

The losses that Vera suffered were immense. The strength she showed through it all was commendable. She was a feminist at a time before being a feminist was popular. And she has shared her story with the rest
...more
Naomi Sarah
Jun 25, 2015 Naomi Sarah rated it it was amazing
As soon as I watched the movie, which was SUPERB AND AMAZING, I told myself I realllllly needed to read the book. I'm sure you can all relate to that situation. :-P
I asked my Grandma if she had the book in her house (because her house is stamp-filled with books) and she said she didn't. But then I found it anyway, buried under loads of other books. I'm SO glad I found it! I read it in two days.

What I liked:
1. The writing style. Vera Brittain sure is a talented author. I loved how she told her st
...more
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History in Vogue: Testament of Youth : Week Four 2 9 Sep 08, 2016 03:30PM  
History in Vogue: Testament of Youth: Week Three 3 7 Sep 08, 2016 03:17PM  
History in Vogue: Testament of Youth: Week Two 2 4 Sep 01, 2016 06:46PM  
History in Vogue: Testament of Youth: Week One 2 10 Aug 24, 2016 06:08PM  
History in Vogue: Testament of Youth : Week Nine 1 4 Jun 15, 2016 03:53PM  
History in Vogue: Testament of Youth : Week Eight 1 2 Jun 15, 2016 03:52PM  
History in Vogue: Testament of Youth: Week Seven 1 2 Jun 15, 2016 03:51PM  
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Vera Mary Brittain was a British writer and pacifist, best remembered as the author of the best-selling 1933 memoir Testament of Youth, recounting her experiences during World War I and the beginning of her journey towards pacifism.

Her daughter is Shirley Vivian Teresa Brittain Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby who is a British politician and academic who represents the Liberal Democrats.

More about Vera Brittain...

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“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.” 95 likes
“Perhaps ...
To R.A.L.

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.”
63 likes
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