I recommend Chronicle of Youth: The War Diary 1913-1917 by Vera Brittain to all, especially to young women. Brittain wrote a novel based on her diaries, Testament of Youth, which was made into a highly acclaimed BBC movie of the same name.In their spontaneity, freshness, depth of thought and emotion, her diaries represent a unique document of the life if young people in Britain at the brink of World War I and how in 1914 their lives were dramatically disrupted and changed "in the twinkling of an eye."
As she writes on August 25, 1914, "Truly, we of this generation are born to a youth very different from anything we even supposed or imagined for ourselves. Trouble and disasters are menacing us the nature of which we cannot even guess at."
And again on September 3, "It is so strange how the very fact of going to Oxford...is transformed by the same grey despondent mist that alters everything now. Despondent is not quite the word for we are too proud to be really that. So it seems that sad word, 'joy,' must be banished from our vocabularies, and that if it is ever reinstated, it will be sadder than ever because of the toll of our lives that will have paid for it. This is no longer a time to see how much enjoyment one can get out of life, but to see how much courage and strength one can give to it. Not self-satisfaction, but self-sacrifice is the order of the day... There are only two things possible now--to act when that can be done--and to endure--to endure grief and disappointment with patience and courage, and with a brave cheerfulness which will make other people's burdens seem more bearable to them."
Brittain left Oxford and became a nurse until the war's end.
Edward Brittain, Vera's brother, Roland Leighton, her fiance, and close friend, Victor Richardson--all killed in the war.
At the time that she wrote these diaries, Brittain knew that she wanted to be a writer and they were for her an explicitly literary outlet. This does not detract from their truth, but only makes her record more vivid. Miss Brittain was a top honors student all of her young life, as were her friends, both male and female. In numbers of ways, her diary stunningly highlights the paucity of the culture of many youth today. She tells how she fell in love with Roland Leighton and their deep love for each other--although they kissed only once--far different than the sex-drenched but loveless relationships many young people experience today. You can read some of their letters online.