Another busy week at work, another week where I didn’t feel like reading any of my go-to genres or authors but wanted engaging and intellectually interesting books rather than comfort reads. What I’m trying to say is that I’m reading at a snail’s pace at the moment. It is Remembrance Sunday in the UK today which makes this week’s reading updates somewhat topical:
Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth has been on my shleves for five years and I am slightly disappointed that I have left reading it for so long. It is an excellent book. It is a sad and infuriating read, but I loved every page of it.
Even though Testament of Youth is known as a book about WW1, there is a lot more to it. The WW1 story only takes up half of the book. My edition had 612 pages. There is a lot of content. The second half zooms in on how Brittain dealt with her own experiences but part of this process was that she actively engaged in politics (first as a Liberal, later supporting Labour) and it was fascinating to read her first-hand accounts of meeting Lady Rhondda just after she was refused admittance to her rightful seat in the House of Lords, how she experienced the first time that Oxford adjusted to women graduates (Cambridge apparently resisted the change in law for as long as they could), how women were sacked from professions in which their contribution were previously deemed to be “essential work” (borrowing here from the 2020 terminology).
There is a lot to the book and I found the second half just as fascinating as the first.
The second book I finished was Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier, a slim novella about a soldier returning home from the trenches and because he’s been suffering from amnesia. He does not recognise his wife. He does however remember the woman he was in love with 15 years ago and believes in his state of mental confusion that they are still an item.
What an extraordianry book this was.
West doesn’t provide us with gory details of the front, but the questions she does make the reader ask are just as chilling. I can’t believe she was on;y 24 when she wrote this book.
Other reviews posted this week:
William Shakespeare: Love’s Labour’s Lost
The Thirteen Guests – J. Jefferson Farjeon (re-read)
Night and Day – Virginia Woolf
Red Ellen: The Life of Ellen Wilkinson – Laura Beers
The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works – William Shakespeare (see The Will’s World Project)