Category Archives: Brittain, Vera

Watching Testament of Youth

Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth made a great impression on me when I finally read it several years ago. My interest in it led me to read more by and about Brittain, as well as more by and about her close friend Winifred Holtby, and then to research and eventually offer a seminar on a cluster […]

“The sword in the hand of humanity”: Writings of Rebecca West 1911-1917

“Boldness is Rebecca West’s strength,” Jane Marcus says in  her edited collection The Young Rebecca: Writings of Rebecca West 1911-1917; “She polished the weapons of invective and denunciation into the tools of a fine art.” That combination of boldness and artfulness makes West irresistibly quotable: people who hang out with me on Twitter may have noticed […]

“It is only War in the abstract that is beautiful”: Letters from a Lost Generation

In remembrance, from the Novel Readings archive. This volume is subtitled “The First World War Letters of Vera Brittain and Four Friends: Roland Leighton, Edward Brittain, Victor Richardson, Geoffrey Thurlow.” The editors, Alan Bishop and Mark Bostridge, explain in their ‘Note to the Text’ that they have abridged the letters, sometimes significantly, in order to “lay […]

“I believe we are lost”: Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front is as bleak and compelling a version of the “lost generation” narrative of World War I as I’ve read so far. In fact, Paul Bäumer, the novel’s narrator, comments explicitly, repeatedly, and bitterly on the chasm between the generation fighting in the trenches and the older generation far away from […]

“She is in love with life”: Winifred Holtby’s Virginia Woolf: A Critical Memoir

In my post on Vera Brittain’s Testament of Friendship, I quoted a passage Brittain includes from Holtby’s letters, addressing her decision to write a critical biography of Virginia Woolf: I took my courage and curiosity in both hands and chose the writer whose art seemed most of all removed from anything I could ever attempt, […]

Social Revolutions: Vera Brittain, Honourable Estate

I finally finished reading Vera Brittain’s 1936 novel Honourable Estate. I read Part I a few months back and described it as “not particularly artful” but “emotionally quite intense,” and unsurprisingly, it continues that way to the end. Part I told the unhappy story of Janet and Thomas Rutherford, their marriage destroyed either by Janet’s unreasonable […]

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas

It’s hard to spot similarities between Virginia Woolf and the Somerville novelists I’ve been looking at if you focus on Woolf’s fiction. Winifred Holtby wrote a book about Woolf, and as I noted in my post about Testament of Friendship, she did so deliberately because she knew Woolf was such a different novelist: “I took […]

The Summer of Somerville

Now that the dust has mostly settled from the teaching term, I’ve begun organizing my plans for the summer. One of my top priorities is preparing for my new seminar on ‘The Somerville Novelists,’ which is the first official academic manifestation of the reading I’ve been doing about Vera Brittain, Winifred Holtby, and Margaret Kennedy. […]

Vera Brittain, Honourable Estate Part I

Vera Brittain’s Honourable Estate turns out to be a bit hard to get out here. I’ve been reading a copy that came (via “document delivery” or interlibrary loan) from the Winnipeg Public Library–who knew. It said it wasn’t renewable: the good folks at our library managed to wangle one renewal for me, but it’s revised […]

“It is only War in the abstract that is beautiful”: Letters from a Lost Generation

This volume is subtitled “The First World War Letters of Vera Brittain and Four Friends: Roland Leighton, Edward Brittain, Victor Richardson, Geoffrey Thurlow.” The editors, Alan Bishop and Mark Bostridge, explain in their ‘Note to the Text’ that they have abridged the letters, sometimes significantly, in order to “lay bare the vivid and moving personal […]

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