Category Archives: Brittain, Vera

Reading and Research Redux: The Somerville Novelists Project

I admit, my earlier question “When is reading research?” was a bit disingenuous: obviously, research is purposeful reading. Of course, this definition can get batted around a bit too, depending on how you define your purpose: the pursuit of pleasure? aesthetic enrichment? familiarity with current best-sellers? Perhaps it’s better to say that, at least in […]

Vera Brittain, Testament of Experience

Testament of Experience continues the story of Vera Brittain’s life more or less from the point Testament of Youth leaves off. Though both volumes are autobiographical, Testament of Experience seems more conventionally autobiographical to me, in that it is specifically and deliberately the story of Brittain’s own life, while Testament of Youth approaches the history of her generation […]

Vera Brittain Goes to Cornell

I was feeling claustrophobic and disheartened without a book on the go that I really liked (still working on Wild Life, still not enjoying it; finished Mr. Golightly’s Holiday, didn’t much like the turn it took; not looking forward to The Paris Wife after reports from others that it’s “vapid”)…and so in a readerly huff I […]

Vera Brittain, The Dark Tide

There are books that are bad in uninteresting ways and books that are bad and yet somehow still interesting. The Dark Tide, Vera Brittain’s first novel, is in the second category. In saying this I am basically repeating what seems to have been the critical consensus about The Dark Tide since its publication in 1923: […]

Testament of a Generation: The Journalism of Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby

The more time I spend in the company of these two extraordinary women, the more I appreciate their energy and commitment, as well as the clarity and force of their prose. All of these qualities are on full display in this collection of their journalism. The editors, Paul Berry and Alan Bishop, have organized the […]

Vera Brittain, Testament of Friendship

Whether or not the spirit of man is destined for some unknown flowering in a life hereafter, the benevolence of the good and the courage of the undefeated remain, like the creative achievements of the richly gifted, a part of the heritage of humanity for ever. I’m not sure that I would have fully appreciated […]

Boston by the Books

I’m back from a wonderful five days in Boston and it seems only fitting to post first (as I did following last year’s jaunt to New York) about the books that came home with me. It was a great bookish trip, thanks to the guidance but also the company of my co-editors at Open Letters […]

An Examined Life: Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth

Now that I’ve finished reading Testament of Youth, I am most impressed by it as a testament to Brittain’s determination to understand and give meaning to the war. Though the book is often very poignant (as in the excerpt I posted last time), it’s not, ultimately, an emotional book so much as it is an […]

The Pity of War: More from Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth is long; I have about 200 pages still to go. We’re well into the war now, and her account is a compelling mix of immediacy–especially through the long excerpts from letters and diaries written ‘to the moment’–and reflection. I’m fascinated by the almost portentous sentimentality of much of her youthful writing and […]

Racing Out of the Gate: Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth

I haven’t been doing very well with Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children since I posted a little while back about how unbearably annoying I found Sam Pollitt. In fact, I have put the book back on the shelf, for now at least, a rare decision of mine regarding a book I recognize to […]

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