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Testament Of Youth: An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900-1925 (Virago classic non-fiction) Paperback – 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Edition with new cover edition (2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0860680355
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860680352
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 4.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

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.

Review

" 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

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
When the Great War broke out, it came to me not as a superlative tragedy, but as an interruption of the most exasperating kind to my personal plans. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 51 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 Nov 2001
Format: Paperback
If you only read one book about the First World War, read this one. The true horror of the war is detailed, and it really makes you think about the loss and sacrifice.
I read this book first of all studying for my History degree,and I have re-read it many times since then.
Vera's life and what happened to her, and her friends has stayed with me always, and I have now encouraged other people to read it too.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Aug 2000
Format: Paperback
I have just finished reading 'Testament of Youth' and thought you could hardly better the sense of experience, personal and national, that comes out of it. I come to the book from an 'autobiography' background, rather than of 'interest in the war' as such, and therefore to my mind the first two thirds of the book are best where Vera Brittain is conveying her personal experience and responses; I think she is less good in conveying her work for the League of Nations etc. But then, perhaps that is the point of it. As she says a couple of times in the text, these are experiences which I will never be able to overcome. Her courage in picking herself up after the war is fantastic, but you know in your heart that something has been lost in her forever. It was also very nice to read about a Buxton lass. I like Derbyshire & the Dales and I enjoyed the presentation of 'genteel' Buxton and her family and friends.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Graceann Macleod on 31 Jan 2009
Format: Paperback
Vera Brittain was a privileged, yet restricted young woman. She was very of her time in that she had to fight for everything that today's women tend to take for granted. The freedom to spend time with whomever she chose, to have privacy, even to receive an education, were all hard-fought. She belonged to the middle/upper class, with all the comforts that that status implies, even to the point of reaching adulthood without ever learning the simple task of boiling an egg.

She freely admitted that when the War broke out, it appeared to her to be an interruption and an inconvenience. She had no idea just how it would transform the world and her life. Five years later, she was a bitter, nightmare-ridden shadow of her former self.

Testament of Youth takes you from the time of Vera's childhood through 1925, when she is just starting a new, happier life. Making copious use of her own diaries, letters between herself and her friends, and the poetry and music of the time, she gives a lesson by means of immersion into her life. Her prose is extremely demanding and not for the faint of heart. There were many sections where I was only able to pick up just what she was saying from the context. Her vocabulary is dense and elaborate. At first I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to rise to the occasion, but in the end I was richly rewarded.

The meat of Testament of Youth is Vera's writing of her wartime experiences as a nurse and as a worried sister, lover and friend of those serving in the trenches. I have never been so aware of just how debilitating this era in history was, not just to the soldiers, but to those who waited, worked and worried back at home.

The book runs out of steam after the War, and then Vera's completion of her education at Oxford.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rhiannon on 26 July 2009
Format: Paperback
I first read this book when studying for my A levels 25 years ago -it totally overpowered me then and now it still does.It is my all time favourite book because it has such humanity and love at its core.
Vera Brittain was an amazing woman and her early years as documented in Testament of Youth shaped her views for the rest of her life.
With the recent passing of Harry Patch the last WW1 Soldier I picked up this seminal work again to remind me of that generation and all they endured.
Vera's Courage whether it be fighting to gain an education at University, or working as a VAD Nurse while all the time one by one those she loves perish shines through .I still cannot read the poem after Roland's Death without tears falling.
This wonderful work will remain a classic - a benchmark for Womens Literature.I will continue to reread it and pass it on to my children as an important message is contained within.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Mar 2002
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most fasinating books about the first World War that I have ever read. It combines the history of the War with emotions and opinions that are all very moving to the reader. I strongly recommend reading this book, it will certaintly effect your attitude to the events of the 1st World War.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By garry on 17 July 2011
Format: Paperback
It is extremely difficult to get through this book without splashing the pages with your tears. I mentally clasped the author's hand throughout this tormented autobiography. I like strong women. People like me frequently do. Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth didn't disappoint. Brittain was a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) - a sort of auxiliary nurse - who were often middle or upper class civilian women with little or no experience of hardship or hospital discipline filling in for a lack of trained nurses in the wars. She coped as best she could, on one occasion finding herself in charge of a ward of 40 badly wounded men. While the men (rightly so) earned medals and distinctions, she was refused permission to return to the Front and help because she had broken her contract to look after her sick mother. Brittain writes with an insight into the First World War in a way that most men can't. Emotional, passionate and with a welcome frankness about sex and relationships.
"The ward was reserved for gassed classes, and I had once again the task of attending to the blinded eyes and scorched throats and blistered bodies which made the struggle for life such a half-hearted affair. One of the dying men had his wife beside him for two or three days; she didn't much enjoy her vigil, and had already began to flirt with the orderly sergeant before he came to superintend the removal of her husband's body. I wondered whether she knew that the dead man had been syphilitic as well as gassed."
The sub-text is rich.
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