Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

Genre: Memoir, WWI, Literary
5 stars.

Testament of Youth is one of the most heart-wrenching, haunting, and beautifully written memoirs of WWI, and I cannot adequately describe how much this book has impacted me. Vera Brittain captures the naivete of 1914 British youth who grew up in sheltered Victorian society, and the following disillusionment, betrayal, and attempt to make sense of a world shattered by war, chaos, and death. Brittain draws not only on memory, but also relies on poetry and excepts from her diaries and letters during that time to make sense of what she experienced–the loss of all the young men she cares for, her service as a V.A.D nurse in Italy and France, and finally her return to Oxford and picking up the pieces of her life. I highly recommend this book, and I leave you with this poem written by Brittain’s fiance Roland Leighton from the trenches in 1915:

Violets from Plug Street Wood,
Sweet, I send you oversea.
(It is strange they should be blue,
Blue, when his soaked blood was red,
For they grew around his head;
It is strange they should be blue.)

Violets from Plug Street Wood-
Think what they have meant to me-
Life and Hope and Love and You
(And you did not see them grow
Where his mangled body lay
Hiding horror from the day;
Sweetest it was better so.)

Violets from oversea,
To your dear, far, forgetting land
These I send in memory,
Knowing you will understand.

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