Testament of Youth
By Vera Brittain
Why this book?
This autobiographical study of Vera Brittain’s life in the time leading up to the Great War, through it and projecting into the inter-war years, brilliantly demonstrates the enormous changes that were wrought by the brutal and world-shaping conflict. Brittain is a fiercely intelligent, politically aware narrator as well as a likable, wry, honest, and vulnerable human being, and it is the combination of these traits which makes reading her account of the times such an intensely involving and emotional experience. Her book gives a real sense of what it was like to be a woman at the time, shielded by society from the dangers that all her beloved men-folk – fiancé, brother, friends – were sent to face. Grieving and determined to play her part, she gave up her (hard-won) place at Oxford to enroll as a VAD, and her experiences nursing men at the front changed her forever. This book, which I have read several times, was both an inspiration for, and central to my research for, Blasted Things.
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