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 fiancé, 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.
" Miss Brittain has written a book which stands alone among books written by women about the war." -- Sunday Times
" Today, Testament is firmly enshrined in the canon of the literature of the first world war.." -- Guardian, August 30, 2003
"Nothing else in the literature of the first world war charts so clearly the path leading from erosion of innocence.." -- Guardian, August 30, 2003
heartrending personal account of a generation of young men being killed on the Western Front in the First World War -- Sir Bernard Ingham, Sunday Express