Testament of Youth

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In 1914, when World War 1 started, Vera Brittain was a young, middle class girl studying at Oxford.  In 1915, anxious to contribute to the war effort, she enlisted as a nurse.  She was posted to London, Malta and the Western Front.  By the end of the war, her fiancee, her best friend, and her brother had all been killed.  In her later life, she became a tireless peace activist.  Her book, Testament of Youth, is the story of a generation who went off to war with visions of chivalric glory in their hearts, and, if they were lucky, came home with broken bodies and broken minds.  Her story is the story of millions of other women during the war who lost men to a war that, when over, didn’t settle any of the issues surrounding the war.  World War 1 began the cycle of violence that was the 20th Century.  It is important for scholars to understand this war and the people who were most affected by it.

I read this book as an undergraduate in a survey of World War 1 literature class.  It is one of the best books I have ever read, and its haunting tone made me rethink my attitude on war in general.  How can we ask men and women to go fight a war which has no real purpose?  And how do we help those who survive and come home?  This book is a must read for anyone who believes in peace.

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