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'Wartime Chronicle -Diary 1939-1945' - Vera Brittain

Discussion in 'Biographies and Everything Else' started by MichaelBully, Nov 13, 2016.

  1. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Active Member

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    Here is a review I wrote : Vera Brittain's World War 2 diary edited by Alan Bishop and Y.Aleksandra Bennett, published 1989.

    Vera Brittain ( 1893- 1970 ) was a social commentator, novelist, poet, World War 1 VAD nurse, most famous for her auto-biographical 'Testament of Youth' (1933) about her life up to 1925, particularly drawing on World War 1.
    Around 1937 she became a Christian Pacifist , and activist in the Peace Pledge Union.


    "An obvious contention with a published diary after someone's death is that the reader relies on the discretion and judgement of the editors. Also a diary might function as someone's shadow side, not necessarily be representative of what views they truly hold.
    This is vital reading for anyone interested in Vera Brittain, there was so much more to her life than 'Testament of Youth' and the various related literature about experiences in World War 1 .
    By the time that World War 2 began, Vera was a convinced pacifist, and sponsor of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU). The diary focuses on three broad political campaigns that Vera was heavily involved in. The demand for a negotiated armistice, the bombing restriction campaign, and the European famine relief work.
    But from a pacifist perspective contradictions emerge . A nation can only negotiate and maintain an armistice from a position of military strength.Calls for bombing restriction can be criticised as somehow humanising war so not always popular with pacifists.
    Other problems emerge, when at the end of war, Vera found out that her name was on the Gestapo List of people to be arrested if the Germans invaded, her response was self important and a bit tasteless
    "They ( the Nazis) realised that those who were ready to resist them by spiritual, non-violent means were at least as dangerous as those who were prepared to fight them by military weapons; they understood that the faith by which we lived was a power inimical too."
    The reason that the Gestapo didn't get to lock her up was because people fought, killed and died to stop the Germans coming. Not the power of moral force.
    The strength of the book was that Vera was a great social commentator . The observations of bombing , the mood of the population, the weather, how she coped whilst having her children evacuated to the States, and her husband also having to make dangerous Atlantic crossings.Also the complications of distributing her Pacifist newsletter, trying to liaise with and visit PPU and Quaker groups, working for a London charity. And of course being a writer and novelist still determined to publish in war time.
    She's honest about the bickering within the PPU General Council, even catty when finding her ex-friend Margaret Storm Jameson latest novel has had a bad review
    Above all her empathy with those being bombed, or otherwise suffering from the War, on all sides is just so endearing. Whether it is in showing compassion for the civilians bombed in the first mass raid on Cologne of May 30th 1942, or the heart breaking newspaper account of a fifty year old widow in Brighton who killed herself when finding her son serving in the RAF has been killed in action."
     

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