Testament of Youth

testament of youth cover image Testament of Youth

Vera Brittain
Penguin Classics
Paperback, 688 pages

First published in 1933, this memoir of the First World War still holds a place in the modern era because it so beautifully captures a time in which the virtues and illusions of an old age were put to death in a way that no other generation has yet to live through. Written by a woman in a time when most war literature came from men, it brings a different perspective to the genre. 
Vera Brittain was a young woman in her first year at Somerville College, Oxford, when the Great War broke out. Putting her studies on hold to become a nurse, she spent four years helping with the war effort and simultaneously watching all the men she loved die. Though shattering, the novel is also beautiful and uplifting, as Vera details life after, including her efforts with the League of Nations, feminism with the women's vote, and simple survival as life continued.