An engrossing and ultimately sad story of what war forces on young and old alike. It is Gilroy's personal story/confession/personal examination. The story is of interest by itself as that of a WW2 soldier who can tell us what it was like for him, but it is of universal value as well. It speaks of what war does to people - us - of how war and what happens changes us irrevocably: takes our innocence; shows us things which are hard to believe; astounds us with what we and our fellow man accepts/does in times of such mind-numbing stress - what we ignore, what we take part in; what we are left with when it is over.
'Private' is told in progressive scenes, like in a movie, with snippets of conversation, thoughts of the moment, intimate confessions which would probably never be spoken aloud - for who in person listening would know how to respond? - yet those confessions can be admitted on the safety of the page. There was one scene, of a recovered thin and weary American prisoner of war seeking chocolate from an unresponsive group of American soldiers, which I found myself shocked at. Gilroy himself seemed ashamed of the general inability to see this mans internal state, and his recounting of it was as if it he needed to tell of it, to help him understand just how they all had responded (or rather hadn't).
This story reads as truth, the truth of a young soldier remembering. It is not written as light entertainment. I felt his voice as I read. I recommend it for those who do not need every thought and action explained to them.