Between Friends

Letters of Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby

A literary relationship that began in 1921 and lasted until Winifred's untimely death at the age of 35, the letters that kept Vera Brittain and Winifred `continuously together' brings us the correspondence of two women who wished to make their mark on the world and to change the world in the process. Vera called Winifred a writer `whose correspondence suggested a long, vivid and unbroken conversation'. Both wrote about their ambitions and frustrations as writers and they encouraged and advised each other but there were also periods when they were literary rivals and the letters show them negotiating envy and self-doubt. Vera collected some of the letters in Testament of Friendship to `show readers that loyalty and affection between women - not only unsung but mocked, belittled - is a noble relationship.' It was at times an uneven relationship: Vera, five years older, married and had two children, while Winifred remained a single woman but as one of Holtby's characters says in her famous novel, South Riding: `I am spinster and I am going to spin!' Through their letters we witness as they ` grew mature together and that is the next best thing.' Vera helped Winifred form her ideology - `You made me' which gave her something to direct her life towards. Winifred shored up Vera up, helping her in every way including managing husband and children, but she was also Vera's intellectual sounding board. This portrait of a friendship is also a social history, a portrait of a time between the wars, and a dramatic, wonderful story.
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