Shortlist year: 2015

Shortlist category: Non-fiction

Published by: Melbourne University Press

Barrie Cassidy's father Bill survived more than four years as a prisoner of war in World War II. He first saw conflict on Crete in May 1941.

Just four days later, Bill was wounded and captured. His new wife Myra and his large family thought he was dead until news of his capture finally reached them.

Back home, many years of silence after the war, unhealed wounds unexpectedly opened for Bill and Myra, testing them once again.

Private Bill is a heart-warming story of how a loving couple prevailed over the adversities of war to live an extraordinarily ordinary, happy life.

About the author

Barrie Cassidy

Barrie Cassidy started out in journalism as a cadet reporter with the Border Mail in Albury.

He has been a court reporter and police roundsman, a political correspondent, program host, newsreader, radio broadcaster and foreign correspondent.

He has worked for the Shepparton News, the Melbourne Herald, the ABC, The Australian and Network Ten, as well as in Washington and Brussels.

For the past 13 years he has been host of the ABC's Insiders, and until recently, Offsiders.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he was Senior Press Secretary to Prime Minister Bob Hawke and then ultimately his political adviser.

Judges’ comments

The hero of this beautifully conceived and multi-layered tale is Cassidy's father, Bill, who arrived on the Greek island of Crete on Anzac Day, 1941.

As Cassidy reveals, his parents had great difficulty dealing with a huge secret that only surfaced fifty years later. All this is canvassed in the book's penultimate chapter, which demonstrates why, for decades, his mother Myra rarely left the house and how, over time, her relationship with Bill was mended.

Aptly subtitled In Love and War, this is a compelling but often-understated book. Cassidy's limpid and nuanced narrative voice effectively carries this highly moving story in two interwoven parts to an extremely satisfying conclusion.