Testament of Youth

by Vera Brittain

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.


Published in 1933, Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain is a memoir of the author’s young life. Vera Brittain wrote several volumes to document her life experiences, including one about her later life (from 1925–1950) and another about her relationship with Winifred Holtby, a close friend.

Plot Summary

This particular work follows Brittain's life from the year 1900 to 1925. The narrative starts while she is planning to attend Somerville College at Oxford and maintaining a courtship with her brother's friend Roland Leighton. Unfortunately, both Leighton and her brother, Edward Brittain, are called to World War I and killed in the conflict, which greatly hurts Vera and shapes her life. Her grief is clear in the writing, and it seems she is still processing those and other deaths caused by the Great War.

In school, Brittain studies to be a nurse; she goes on to work as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse during the war, which is the main focus of many of the events of the story. She spends time traveling throughout Europe, particularly in England, Malta, and France. She tends to wounded soldiers and does her best to contribute to the war effort during this time.

Later, she returns and finish her college degree, achieving a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. After college, she eventually meets the man she will marry, George Carlin, and the narrative ends with their marriage in 1925, a fitting end to a portion of her life that begins in heartbreak.

Much of Brittain's writing attempts to contextualize events in her life, and this story fits the events of her life neatly into those of World War I, giving a firsthand account of how greatly people were affected by the war.

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