Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900-1925 by Vera Brittain

Testament of youth

Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Pages: 688
Published by Victor Gollancz Limited on August 28th 1933 ( Edition pictured published by Virago Press in 2014)

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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.

Finnikin of the Rock

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

finnikin of the rock

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Published by Viking Australia on September 29th 2008

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Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive.

Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance . . . and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father.

But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin’s faith in her . . . but in himself.

I chose this book for my first review for one simple reason. I Love it. I first read this book when I was around 11 or 12 but I still regularly re-read it almost a decade later.

This book contains so many of favourite elements of fantasy novels; kings, queens, curses and epic journeys. It weaves an engaging story that draws you into the world. However, whilst I do love the plot it isn’t even my favourite thing about this book. Marchetta creates such a strong cast of characters with complex interpersonal relationships. There is such a clear development of all the relationships, and not just romantic ones. There is a really intense focus on familial and platonic relationships, which is a nice change from all the love triangles that dominate young adult fiction. The sense that the characters care about each and are invested in each other’s wellbeing pervades the story and elevates it above other young adult fantasy novels.