Testament of Youth is a British drama film, released in the UK in January 2015, which is based on the First World War memoir of the same name written by Vera Brittain.
At the beginning of the book, Vera Brittain describes how she originally intended to write of her experiences as a novel but was unable to achieve the necessary objective distance from her subject. She then tried to publish her original diary from the war years but with all names fictionalised. This too proved unworkable. Finally she decided to write her own personal story, putting her own experiences in the wider historic and social context: an autobiographical memoir with documents (letters and poems written by the protagonists) and intellectual digressions.
Several critics have noted the cathartic process by which she deals with her grief at the loss of young men close to her - her brother Edward Brittain, her fiancé Roland Leighton, her friends Victor Richardson and Geoffrey Thurlow - in the writing.
The narrative begins with Vera's plans to enter the University of Oxford and her romance with Roland Leighton, a friend of her brother Edward. Both were commissioned as officers early in World War I, and both were subsequently killed, as were several other members of their social circle.
The book's main subject is Vera's work as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse, nursing wounded in London, Malta and at Etaples in France. It also describes how she returned disillusioned to Somerville College, Oxford after the war and completed her BA degree. It covers the beginning of her career in journalism, writing for Time and Tide and lecturing for the League of Nations. She visits the graves of her brother Edward in Italy and her fiancé Roland in France. Together with Winifred Holtby she toured the defeated and occupied regions of Germany and Austria in 1923.
It concludes with her meeting her husband George Catlin and their eventual marriage in 1925.
The diaries on which the book is partly based, Chronicle of Youth, edited by Alan Bishop, were published in 1981. In 1998, the war letters which Brittain also drew on in her autobiography were published in an edition by Alan Bishop and Mark Bostridge. Entitled Letters from a Lost Generation, their appearance was met with considerable acclaim.
The movie adaptation stars Alicia Vikander as Vera Brittain, Kit Harington as Roland Leighton, Colin Morgan as Victor Richardson, Taron Egerton as Edward Brittain,, Dominic West as Mr Brittain, Emily Watson as Mrs Brittain, Hayley Atwell as Hope, Anna Chancellor as Mrs Leighton, Miranda Richardson as Miss Lorimer, Charlotte Hope as Betty.
(Reading Comprehension + Listening Comprehension)
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