Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900-1925 by Vera Brittain
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Published by Victor Gollancz Limited on August 28th 1933 ( Edition pictured published by Virago Press in 2014)
In 1914 Vera Brittain was twenty and, as war was declared, she was preparing to study at Oxford. Four years later her life – and the life of her whole generation – had changed in a way that was unimaginable in the tranquil pre-war era.
I have a confession. I spend so much time thinking about reading more non-fiction books but I so rarely follow through. It’s something I am trying to work on and this book is one of the reasons why, it really showed me the power of true stories to engage and enlighten a reader.
Like many young people I have studied WWI in school. Repeatedly. I was taught the facts over and over again and wrote countless essays of the causes of the war and the major turning points. It wasn’t until I read this book that I felt like I had any understanding of what it was actually like for those who lived through the war. Vera Brittain’s frank discussions of life before, during and after WWI provide a detailed look at a society decimated by unprecedented warfare. To me one of the most memorable aspect of this book would be the inclusion of the poetry written by both Brittain and her contemporaries, which truly highlights their emotional state at such a troubling point in history. I genuinely cannot overstate the response I had to this book, I was unable to stop thinking about it for weeks afterwards and even months later I am still regularly reading the poetry included in the book.
I would highly recommend this book to everyone, even those who don’t normally read non-fiction or memoirs. I would also say that reading this would be invaluable to anyone who is either studying WWI or is simply interested in learning more. However, I will state that the book is fairly lengthy and does take a while to engage the reader, but ultimately the slow start is worth getting through.
As an additional sidenote I was introduced to this book through the 2014 movie, starring Alicia Vikander and Kit Harrington, which is also definitely worth a watch.