“That it is I…who shall stand there is but the end of a long story,”
Brittain is remembered as the writer of war poetry but she also lost her fiance and brother respectively to the war. Brittain herself nursed during the war, and her war experiences are recalled vividly. The book covers the years 1914-1925, and Brittain herself changes from a naive, hopeful Oxford applicant to a world-weary woman reluctant to let go of the past and face a new future.
The book is long – over 600 pages! and contains extracts of letters and diaries written by Vera and others. It can be a bit verbose at times but that works in its favour. Her brother was an aspiring composer and her fiance was a poet and as you read the book you feel the same feeling of despair as she lost those who she loved very much.
There were some things about the League of Nations which I didn’t really understand but other than that it was a very good book. I have never really read a book which deals with the result of a catastrophic war and how it affected society. Brittain’s book shows this well.
It is also very sad because Brittain was writing her book in 1933 and even reading Youth over 80 years later exposes us to her recollections living and existing in a society which has pretty much vanished for us.
There is a sequel to this book which I really want to read. This book itself has been my literature of choice on many train and tube journeys.
MY RATING: ****/ *****