Testament of Youth

In 1914 Vera Brittain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vera_Brittain) was 21 years old, and an undergraduate at Somerville College, Oxford. This is the memoir of an upper middle class woman who volunteers to become a nurse in World War 1, and finds her attitudes to herself and her society completely changed. Yet this is not just her story. As she herself writes, this is the story of a generation whose men were wiped out in battle and whose women were shattered by bereavement. Enquire at your local library or available at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Testament-Youth-Autobiographical-1900-1925-non-fiction/dp/0860680355/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421870000&sr=1-1&keywords=testament+of+youth


This memoir was made into a 5 episode TV mini series in 1979 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078699/) with Cheryl Campbell as Vera Brittain. Available on DVD at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Testament-Youth-DVD-Rosalie-Crutchley/dp/B003EQ4Y8G/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1374386109&sr=1-1&keywords=testament+of+youth.


There is a new film of the memoir, directed by James Kent and released January 2015. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1441953/?ref_=nv_sr_1) This features a splendid cast in the form of Hayley Atwell, Kit Harington, Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, and Anna Chancellor. Available on DVD at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Testament-Youth-DVD-Hayley-Atwell/dp/B00S9U3MOY/ref=sr_1_2?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1421870075&sr=1-2&keywords=testament+of+youth


Do also listen to the BBC Radio 4 ‘Great Lives’ episode (30 minutes) on Vera Brittain available at the link http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b019rpw0  Matthew Parris chairs this  exploration of what it was like to be brought up by Brittain, a mother who was effectively worldwide public property, and so in many ways was simply unavailable to her young daughter Shirley (later Shirley Williams, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Williams). Vera, who as a teenage feminist was desperate for an education, turned her back on her studies at Oxford in 1914, because she felt compelled to serve as a nurse, wanting to support her brother and his friends in the Trenches. The rest of Brittain’s life was shaped by the grief that followed the loss of her fiance, her own brother and two good friends. Candidly conveying all this in ‘Testament of Youth’, won her a lifelong audience. Shirley Williams explains that as a result of these experiences her mother became a passionately committed pacifist and feminist, who in 1944 denounced Bomber Command’s blanket bombing of Germany at a time when it was deeply unpopular to do so. Brittain was vindicated in the eyes of the press when it was revealed that she and her husband George Catlin were the only married couple to feature in the Gestapo’s notorious Black Book, listing those who would have been executed, had the German invasion of the UK been successful. Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, also contributes to the discussion of this fascinating life.


640 pages in Virago paperback edition.

ISBN  978-0860680352


Vera Brittain




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