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Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900-1925 Paperback – 29 Oct 1979

4.4 out of 5 stars 317 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Distribution Services; New edition edition (29 Oct. 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006357032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006357032
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 10.8 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (317 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 140,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Vera Brittain's heart-rending account of the way her generation's lives changed is still as shocking and moving as ever. (STELLA MAGAZINE, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

Like the much-misunderstood poppy, Testament both memorializes and warns... to remain uninformed is actually life-threatening. (TLS)

it was a surprise to pick her book up now and discover how very good it is. (Diana Athill The Guardian)

sublimely moving... this is a truly great book... should be compulsory reading for the nation's debauched and aimless yobs and yobettes (Val Hennessy DAILY MAIL)

essential reading, not just as an anti-war polemic but as a portrait of a whole generation of young people who were totally ill-prepared and whose lives were utterly changed within four momentous years. (HISTORICAL NOVELS REVIEW)

brilliantly captures the protracted horrors of a war into which her generation was preciptated unprepared... as a personal and social document of its turbulent times, written from the viewpoint of a serious and reflective young woman, this autobiographical work fully merits rediscovery. (CATHOLIC HERALD)

Everyone should read this book. Like all true classics, it has something to tell us all, one generation after another. And this handsome new edition benefits from photographic illustrations and an elegant preface by Shirley Williams, Vera Brittain's distinguished daughter. If you have tears, prepare to share them now. (TRIBUNE)

A heartbreaking account of the impact of the First World War on a stout-hearted, high-minded young woman (THE SUNDAY TIMES '100 Biographies to Love')

it was a surprise to pick her book up now and discover how very good it is. (Diana Athill THE GUARDIAN) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback
Vera Brittain's account was written in the early 1930s, as she tried to make sense of the extraordinary bereavement that affected those of her generation who survived the First World War.
Growing up in provincial Edwardian England, a fascinating piece of writing in itself, she falls in love with one of her brothers's friends in 1914. The romance is going well, until the outbreak of war sweeps in to disrupt her life. Suddenly the love of her life, as well as her brother and some other close friends, are all in the trenches, trying to live out the noble heroic dream on behalf of King and Country.
Unable to support directly, she joins the nursing corps as a volunteer but there is no consolation for her as first her fiance, then her friends and finally her brother die.
Her account of desolation when she receives the news each time is traumatising and shows a side of life you don't get from the war poems: the horror of war not from the front line, but from the perspective of almost continuous bereavement, among people who feel helpless and increasingly angry with the world. Her perspectives on daily life in London in the war years are as insightful as the descriptions of nursing in Malta and France, where she spent the bulk of her time. Certain details, such as the atmosphere behind the lines as the British wilt before the Ludendorff offensive, but are rallied by a missive from Field Marshall Haig will interest even those who know a lot about the history of it.
Yet it is the human story which is most powerful.
This is a brutally honest book, and she does not paint herself without warts: she is obsessive about academic study, has a mental breakdown after the war and doesn't make it easy on anyone courting her thereafter.
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