Literature and War Readalong December 29 2014: Letters From a Lost Generation by Vera Brittain and Four Friends

Letters From a Lost Generation

Letters from a Lost Generation is the book I’ve been looking forward to all year. I love reading letters and this collection has been on my radar for a long time. Vera Brittain was a nurse during WWI.

The letters have been written between her, her fiancé, her younger brother, and two of their best friends. All four men died in the war. I don’t know how she survived such loss. Vera Brittain later wrote her memoirs Testament of Youth, based on her wartime experience.

And some details and the blurb for those who want to join

Letters from a Lost Generation by Vera Brittain and Four Friends (UK) WWI, Letters, 448 pages

Nothing in the papers, not the most vivid and heart-rending descriptions, have made me realise war like your letters’ Vera Brittain to Roland Leighton, 17 April 1915.

This selection of letters, written between 1913 & 1918, between Vera Brittain and four young men – her fiance Roland Leighton, her brother Edward and their close friends Victor Richardson & Geoffrey Thurlow present a remarkable and profoundly moving portrait of five young people caught up in the cataclysm of total war.

Roland, ‘Monseigneur’, is the ‘leader’ & his letters most clearly trace the path leading from idealism to disillusionment. Edward, ‘ Immaculate of the Trenches’, was orderly & controlled, down even to his attire. Geoffrey, the ‘non-militarist at heart’ had not rushed to enlist but put aside his objections to the war for patriotism’s sake. Victor on the other hand, possessed a very sweet character and was known as ‘Father Confessor’. An important historical testimony telling a powerful story of idealism, disillusionment and personal tragedy.



The discussion starts on Monday, 29 December 2014.

Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2014, including all the book blurbs, can be found here.

25 thoughts on “Literature and War Readalong December 29 2014: Letters From a Lost Generation by Vera Brittain and Four Friends

  1. This looks like a wonderful book, Caroline. I read Claire’s review of Vera Brittain’s ‘Testament of Youth’ and had added her to the list of authors I want to explore. This collection of letters looks so wonderful. I loved those first lines – so beautiful and poignant. Reading letters is always very delightful – it gives us a private peek into the writers’ lives and their hearts. Happy reading! I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

    • Thanks, Vishy. Reading letters is very intimate and in this case, knowing that four out of the five writers will be dead by the end it’s even more poignant.
      “Testament” is a big book but I’d like to read it as well some day.

    • I’m so glad you mentioned the first lines! Those were not from this book. They were from an old post. I always use them because of the format. I removed them right away. But you’re right, they are wonderful first lines. They are the beginning of Private Peaceful.

  2. Unfortunately I can’t join in with this but also look forward to reading your thoughts. I read and reviewed Testament of Youth earlier this year too….fantastic book.

  3. I should get this book ( one of these days) having read Testamnet of Youth earlier this year I think I would find it fascinating and moving. Thanks for telling me about a book I hadn’t heard of.

    • I like letters. It depends of course. they did some heavy editing in this case, cutting repetitins and insider jokes and such.
      It’s incredibly sad. And how young they were. So much enthusiasm in the first letter and we, as readers already know, in a couple of months the writer will be dead.
      She wasn’t even an exception. many lost several people.

  4. The fact that all the men who wrote the letters died in the war is sad beyond belief.

    I also enjoy reading letters. They tell us a lot of things.

    This one looks to be well worth the read.

  5. I pulled my copy out and it looks really good, but knowing what a slow NF reader I am, don’t be surprised if I don’t manage to finish it in time. I have done so bad this year with the readalong–I just can’t seem to settle down to my books no matter how much I am enjoying them or look forward to reading them. It is always with a feeling of accomplishment these days that I turn that last page on a book! So–I will give this a go and start, but otherwise will look forward to hearing what you think of the book!

    • I find it a very easy read so far, also because letters are rather short and it gives you a a feeling of moving along quickly.
      It’s so tragic to read how they speak about what they are going to do after the war and we know the men will all be dead.
      I’ve decided to do a mini- readalong next year. Only 4 books. I too struggled this year and not only because one or two choices weren’t my thing. I know how you feel.

      • Glad to hear–I will have to start reading this week and see how far I get. My last class is tonight– 😦 — but that will free up a little more of my time. I just fizzled this year with reading in general and reading along with others especially. Four books sounds very doable for next year so I look forward to hearing about what you have in mind! Will they be war related or something else?

  6. It’s really tempting, I enjoy reading letters. Too bad it’s not available in kindle edition.
    I’ve read the French Paroles de Poilus and it’s extremely moving to read letters from people you know will die during this war.
    It puts the events at human scale and you cannot not imagine it could be your cousin, neighbour, brother or fiancé.

    I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts about this one.

    • I’ve only read the first 50 pages and the men are still in Britain but already it makes me choke. They all thought they would survive.
      Too bad you can’t read along.

Thanks for commenting, I love to hear your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.