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Born 1925: A Novel of Youth
By Vera Brittain

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Born 1925: A Novel of Youth
By Vera Brittain
ISIS Large Print, 1987
ISBN: 1-85089-168-0
Genre: Fiction

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - April 29, 2001

In 1925 a son, Adrian, was born to the Reverend Robert Carbury, V.C. and his wife Sylvia. Born 1925: A Novel of Youth, follows Adrian Carbury as he grows to manhood in the shadow of two world wars. Written by Vera Brittain, it is a compelling treatment of the insidious impact of war, both on those that lived through it, and those that grow up in its shadows.

Brittain is a well-respected author who is, perhaps, best known for her autobiographical work, Testament of Youth. This book chronicles her life from 1900 to 1925, although it primarily concentrates on her war service as a nurse in Europe during World War I. Although Born 1925 begins where Testament of Youth ends, Born 1925 is a work of fiction. Yet in many ways, these two books are related.

Brittain was born in England in 1893 and she had to struggle against Victorianism to achieve her goal of an education. She eventually went on to attend Somerville College in Oxford and pursued a career as a writer and poet. During World War I she left college, temporarily, to become a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse. Her duties took her into the thick of the carnage, intimately exposing her to the horrors of war. In addition, her fiancé, her brother, and several close friends, were all killed during the war.

Like many of her contemporaries, the war greatly influenced her outlook on life, and this is painfully obvious in her writing. She emerged from her war time experiences as a mature, independent woman with staunch feminist and pacifists leanings.

In Born 1925, Brittain gives full reign to her two core beliefs. Adrian's mother is the renowned Shakespearean actress Sylvia Salveson. Unlike her contemporaries, Sylvia does not quit her job when she marries, or even when she has children, but continues to work throughout her life. Her first husband, Lawrence Mayfield was a fellow thespian and their match was one of true love. A few short hours after they wedded, he marched off to war never to return. After the war, Sylvia met Robert Carbury. He had been deeply scared by the war, both physically and mentally. Partly as penitence for the killings he committed during the war, Robert, who had been awarded the Victorian Cross for bravery, dedicated his life to the church and became a parson.

Robert and Sylvia's marriage was one more of comfort than of love, and into this mix Adrian was born. The book shows that although he was born after the war ended, it still had a profound influence upon Adrian and his younger sister Josephine. Robert is a vocal pacifist, which is incongruous with his status as war hero. As yet another world war looms near, Adrian has to adjust to the new world realities and must decide which path he will take - to join the fight or to accept his father's pacifism.

This is a haunting book, and one that has relevance in any age. Brittain is a gifted writer and she brings Adrian and his family to life. She also offers a compelling glimpse into the impact that war can have on succeeding generations. Although Born 1925 is a self-contained novel, I would recommend that you also read Testament of Youth in order to understand Brittain's background and political leanings, as this gives much deeper meaning to Born 1925.

Related Reviews:

Unfortunatley, the large print editions of Born 1925 and Testament of Youth are both out-of-print, as is the standard print editions of Born 1925. However, Testament of Youth is still available in standard print.

As well, there are a several other books by Vera Brittain that were released in large print or on audio tape. These include:
While many of the above books are currently out-of-print, you may be able to find copies at your local library.

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