Vera Brittain’s 1930’s Great War Memoir Resonates Powerfully

Download Audio
Cover of "Testament Of Youth." (Photo Courtesy of
Cover of "Testament Of Youth." (Photo Courtesy of

Anyone looking for a powerful summer read should pick up a copy of Vera Brittain’s 1933 “Testament of Youth.” The memoir is a cross between shows like Downton Abbey, films like Galipoli, and modern-era war fiction like “The Things They Left Behind.”

This 82 year-old 600-plus page book rises to the top of the stack. It was written by Brittain — a feminist, pacifist, nurse, poet, and student — nearly 18 years after The Great War robbed her of her youth, her fiancé, her brother and her best friends. Virginia Woolf said at the time that she stayed up all night to read it, and the Sunday Times of London called it “A book which stands alone among books written by women about the war.”

Military Historian Simon Jones tells host Here & Now's Robin Young that he hopes the new movie based on the war, which stars Alicia Vikander, will inspire watchers to read the book. Of the hundreds and hundreds of World War One books he’s read, he says “Testament of Youth” is one of the best, and the saddest. Jones joins Robin from the BBC studios in Surrey to discuss the impact of Brittain’s book.



More from Here & Now

Listen Live