Letters From A Lost Generation: First World War Letters of Vera Brittain and Four Friends

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This poignant work collects correspondence written from 1913 to 1918 between Vera Brittain and four young men — her fiance Roland Leighton, her younger brother Edward and their two close friends, Victor Richardson and Geoffrey Thurlow — who were all killed in action during World War I.

The correspondence presents a remarkable and profoundly moving portrait of five idealistic youths caught up in the cataclysm of war. Spanning the duration of the war, the letters vividly convey the uncertainty, confusion, and almost unbearable suspense of the tumultuous war years. They offer important historical insights by illuminating both male and female perspectives and allow the reader to witness and understand the Great War from a variety of viewpoints, including those of the soldier in the trenches, the volunteer nurse in military hospitals, and even the civilian population on the home front. As Brittain wrote to Roland Leighton in 1915, shortly after he arrived on the Western Front: "Nothing in the papers, not the most vivid and heartbreaking descriptions, have made me realize war like your letters."

Yet this collection is, above all, a dramatic account of idealism, disillusionment, and personal tragedy as revealed by the voices of four talented schoolboys who went almost immediately from public school in Britain to the battlefields of France, Belgium, and Italy. Linking each of their compelling stories is the passionate and eloquent voice of Vera Brittain, who gave up her own studies to enlist in the armed services as a nurse.

As World War I fades from living memory, these letters are a powerful and stirring testament to a generation forever shattered and haunted by grief, loss, and promise unfulfilled.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This book is a collection of letters written from 1913 to 1918 between Vera Brittain and her brother, her fiance, and two other friends. Some of the letters were included in Vera Brittain's classic account of her wartime experience, Testament of Youth (Penguin, 1994. reprint), but most of them are now being published for the first time. The letters provide insight into the youth of the day and how their feelings and emotions developed during the war, turning from idealism to disillusionment to an acceptance of death. The collection is unique because these letters span the entire war, showing both male and female perspectives. By the end, you know the people, feel their tragedy, and see hope change to despair as loved ones are killed. Bishop is the editor of three volumes of Brittain's diaries, and Bostridge is the coauthor of Vera Brittain: A Life (LJ 4/1/96). The collection is easy to read, with notes to explain unfamiliar terms and historical events. Recommended for all libraries.--Mary F. Salony, West Virginia Northern Community Coll. Lib., Wheeling
A collection of letters written from 1913 to 1918 between Vera Brittain and her fiance, her brother, and two of their friends. Taken together, the letters present a remarkable and moving portrait of five idealistic youths caught up in the cataclysm of WWI. Of these five, only Vera, a nurse, survived the war. Their correspondence inspired her classic memoir of wartime experiences, . Includes b&w photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknew.com)
Kirkus Reviews
The moving correspondence of five young people whose idealism and dreams are reshaped and ultimately buried in the muddy trenches of WWI.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555533793
  • Publisher: Northeastern University Press
  • Publication date: 10/29/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
A Note to the Text xi
Chronology xv
Biographical Notes xviii
Introduction 1
Part 1 28 September 1913 - 29 July 1914 9
Part 2 21 August 1914 - 1 April 1915 23
Part 3 3 April 1915 - 26 August 1915 69
Part 4 27 August 1915 - 26 December 1915 147
Part 5 8 January 1916 - 17 September 1916 205
Part 6 19 September 1916 - 19 December 1916 273
Part 7 26 December 1916 - 11 June 1917 305
Part 8 25 June 1917 - 24 June 1918 359
Notes 403
Select Bibliography 417
Index 419
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