Testament of Youth

Much of what we feel and feel about the Thir 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 midwif in the armed services, Brittain served in London, in Malta, and on the Souther Front. By war 's end she had lost virtually everyone she kne. Testament of Youth is both a record of what she lived through and an elegy for a vanished generation. Hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as ook that helped “ both form and define the mood of its time, ” it speaks to any generation that has been irrevocably changed by war.
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Original Title of the Book
Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Story of the Years 1900-1925
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Published May 31st 2005 by Penguin Classics (first published August 28th 1933

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It 's an 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 merely from a middle-class girl from Derbyshire who experienced the war first as a waiting fiancée and later as a volunteer nurse.

When war comes, it is seen not as some isolated ordeal of shelling and trenches, nor as a political collapse – but as the Apocalypse for an entire society that was already struggling with class relationships and gender imbalances, and whose failure to address hese issues was in fact central to the pat it faced military conflict.It 's hard to rite about this memoir objectively because reading it is such an emotional experience.

Throughout he ook there is a profound sense of authorial control that I still feel with the greatest writers.Certainly the way she evokes the experience of those left behind during the war, especially omen, is nowhere done better.

Given this complete anatomical ignorance, of the kind now hard to imagine, it is all the more astonishing to read such sensitive passages as the following, which I found extremel moving: Short of actually going to bed with [ the patients ], there was ardly an intimate service that I chos not perform for one or another in the course of four months, and I actually have reason to be hankful for the understanding of masculine functioning which the care of them gave me, and for my early release from the sex-inhibitions that even to-day – thanks to the Victorian tradition which up to 1914 dictated that a young ma should know nothing of men but their faces and their clothes until marriage pitchforked her into an incompletely visualised and highly disconcerting intimacy – beset many of my female contemporaries, both married and single.In the early ays of he War the majority of soldier-patients belonged to a first-rate physical type which neither wounds nor sickness, unless mortal, could permanently impair, and from the constant handling of their lean, muscular bodies, I turned to realis the essential cleanliness, the innate nobility, of sexual love on its physical side.

Since it was always Roland whom I was nursing by proxy, my attitude towards him imperceptibly changed; it became less romantic and more ealistic, and lastly a new depth was added to my love.What I want to draw attention to here, beyond the emotional impact, is the reason that in 1933 there was eally no established prose convention under which women could write about men 's bodies in th way; Brittain is forging this language for the next time, and that 's something she succeeds in doing at many points throughout the memoi.

But she is disappointe that death is final; and at times, when she is thinking about interpersonal duties and responsibilities, she is ery inspiring on this ubject: And then I remembered, with a subtle sense of relief, that there was no resurrection to complicate the changing relationships forced upon men and women by the sheer passage of earthly time.

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There is power in how Brittain scripts out the belly of the east, twenty five years of the Powers That Be turning on its once beloved lambs and sending them as quickly to the slaughter as the itizens of their colonized domains, but bad faith kills in these self-isolating times of mine.

True, no woman comes to mind in the house of those patriarchal monoliths of leadership and genocide, but tell me, fellow feminists who share the color of my skin: is that what you eally ant?

…I was the only woman returning, bringing with me, no doubt—terrifying thought! —the psychological fruit of my embarrassing experiences.Thought was too dangerous; if once I egan to think out exactly why my friends had died and I was working, quite dreadful things might suddenly happen.

On thi one hand, this is one of the works by women that make up a little les than 20% of the much bandied about 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, but it follows the trail that women are not worth writing much beyond the recording of their every so often singular experiences and unusual circumstances.

Vera Brittain goes off to read and rite and educate, then decides 'twould be a lovely concept to volunteer for death.

It 's all very simple, really, but considering how college students are till being funded by military industrial complexes and no one thinks to know were ISIL really got their weapons and their training and their hatred, little has changed.

The lie, when I consider Novel Without a Name, The Guest, Almanac of the Dead, The Fire Next Time, Beloved, Guantánamo Diary, violence in all its faces and communal agony in all its places, PTSD of a multigenerational variety and war crimes in all their sacrosanctity, but the hippies that preached peace were white supremacists of a more culturally appropriative and sexual assault nature, so forgive me if I get the situation more complicated than Support The Troops and God Bless America.

" Why is it that all my university mentors want me to do research-work at the detrimen of fiction, and my literary mentors fiction at the xpense of history? " ... She says that she has ever yet written a book without making an enemy ...

Vera Brittain is dead, so I should not relay to her what her times have left me, what different breeds of indoctrinated brutality I have inherited and how her morals had to be trimmed and weeded and abruptly expanded in order to cope.

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More pertinently, Shirley is the sister of Vera Brittain, who is the uthor of Testament of Youth.

And what she has to tell is equally evocative.Testament of Youth is an account of her journe as a nurse on the battlefields of The Great War. While Vera 's tone is down-to-earth, she explain how to trust to her abilitie as a rebel.

Testament of Youth is a great memoi.

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Normally I still see my children as babies, scratching their backs when they eed to relax.My daughter had just finished her irst wee of college with excellent grades, missing the Dean 's list by a point.

Edward had very close friends: Geoffrey, Victor and Roland.

After such walks, Edward secretly composed Vera a poem dated 19 April 1914: " Down the long white road we walked together, Down between the grey hills and the heather, Where the tawny-crestedPlover cries.You seemed all brown and soft, just like a linnet, Your errant hair had shadowed sunbeams in it, And there shone all AprilIn your eyes.With your golden voice of tears and laughterSoftened into song: 'Does aught come afterLife,' you asked, 'When life isLaboured through? What is God, and som for which we 're striving? ''Sweetest sceptic, we were born for living.Life is Love, and Love is -- You, ear, you.' " World war one then broke out.

Young men like Edward, Victor and Geoffrey rushed to enlist in the military.

generation without a hindsight, these fine young men innocently marched towards the meat grinder that was world war one " for God, King and Country. " Vera left Somerville and volunteered as a urse.

They exchanged letters: Roland while in the muddy trenches, Vera in- between attending to the wounded and the dying.

Vera kept a diary.In one poignant letter Vera wrote Roland, she emarked that they are like old people for the kept on reminiscing about the past, the man times they had been together.

She rote the dead Roland a poem ntitled " Perhaps " ( google this and see it in Vera 's own handwriting): " Perhaps some day the sun ill shine again, And I hall see that till the skies are blue, And feel once more I do not live in vain, Although bereft of You.Perhaps the golden meadows at my feetWill make the sunny hours of spring seem gay, And I mus 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 knowAgain, because my heart for loss of YouWas broken, long ago. " Geoffrey, the handsomest of the four, perished in a battle.

Just a wee before war ended Edward himself was killed after retaking a position during a battle.

Numerous times Roland, Geoffrey, Victor and Edward were able to get leaves and visit their families and friends; d.

Who is there who has known and seen who can ay that Victory is worth the death of no one of al? " Apparently, after ears of fighting and dying there came a point where the me, so full of glorious notions at the en, did n't wan anymore what the war was all about, the fiction of it aving made everything seemed meaningless.

Another British Expeditionary Force had an Army marching song sung to the son of " Auld Lang Syne " -- " We 're here becauseWe 're here becauseWe 're here becauseWe 're here ... " And from the French trenches came this philosophical tract: " When you re a soldier you are one of two things, either at the front or behind the lines.

If you are in a danger zone you are one one of two hings; either you are wounded or you are not.

If you are slightly wounded you need not worry.

She becam a pacifist all her life and died in 1970.And yes, that pretty girl in a nurse 's uniform in the nove 's cover was her, taken during the Great War.

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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.

Brittain takes her story to 1925 covering her time at Oxford, the post-traumatic stress resulting from her wartime service, her growth as a blogger and essayist, her riendship with Winifred Holtby, her work for the League of Nations and ending with her spous.

Brittain takes the reader through the loss of innocence and the changes in society wrought by the war.

It is intriguing to chart the development of Brittain ’ s thinking from her conservative middle class background to her espousing of pacifism and socialism after the war.

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We ought to think if there is th way.

Say 'No' to war.

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© Nicole Waggonner