Over the past few weeks I’ve been losing myself in the pages of Vera Brittain’s astounding memoir The Testament of Youth. First published in 1933, Brittain’s book details her experience as a young woman during the First World War. Ultimately losing three of the most important men in her life to the unforgiving realities of war.
Never before has the experiences of civilians and soldiers during the War been so humanized than by Brittain’s brilliant, raw and emotional writing. Surprisingly, this book appears just as relevant today as it was on the eve of the Second World War.
Like myself, millions wake up every morning with the hope that they will live to see the end of the day. That the world will begin to heal itself – that man will no longer commit the most unnatural sins against one another. Today however, was not one of those days. 2017 only began 5 days ago and my optimism has already begun to waiver.
Sometimes reality just becomes too real and the incidents that have slowly eroded my optimistic spirit, were similar to those that inspired Vera Brittain to quote George Eliot as a young student at Oxford. Only moments after she realized her life was about to change forever.
There comes a terrible moment to many souls when the great movements of the world, the larger destinies of mankind, which have lain aloof in newspapers and other neglected reading, enter like an earthquake into their lives…
When the slow urgency of growing generation turns into the tread of an invading army or the dire clash of civil war.
Then it is that the submission of the soul to the Highest is tested and life looks out from the scene of human struggle with the awful face of duty.
“Daniel Deronda” by George Eliot (1876)