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.
Mark Bostridge is the co-author of Vera Brittain: A Life (Chatto & Windus 1995), which was shortlisted for several prizes. Alan Bishop is Professor of English at McMaster University in Ontario and has edited three volumes of Vera Brittain's diaries.