Spirit House - Penguin dropshadow



David is thirteen and confused. His mum has left with her lover and dumped David on his grandparents. David’s grandfather, Jimmy, is seventy. He spends his days at the social club grumbling with his three best friends, all of them Jewish-Australian survivors of the enforced labour camps of the WWII Thai–Burma Railroad. But behind their playful backbiting and irresistible wit, Jimmy and his friends are haunted by the ghosts of long-dead comrades, and the only person Jimmy can confide in is a thirteen-year-old from a different world…

Both powerful and deeply moving, Spirit House tells an intense story of the fall of Singapore and life as a Japanese POW, of the bonds of friendship and the bonds of grief, and of a young boy making sense of growing up while old men try to live with their past.


Shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize
What the judges said: “A compassionate, subtle and darkly humorous novel about a complex subject – it deals with male psychology and the architecture of historical wounds terrifically well.”

Shortlisted for The Age Book of the Year
What the judges said: “Mark Dapin richly and disquietingly combines the voices and viewpoints of Jimmy, a survivor of Japanese captivity on the Burma railway, and his grandson David, who has been abandoned by his parents in Sydney, in 1990. One of the most original of fictional depictions of Jewish–Australian life, this is also a fresh account of brutality and resistance in time of war. Dapin’s command of the vernacular invigorates every page of a bold and satisfying novel.”

Longlisted for The Miles Franklin Literary Award
Highly Commended in the Prime Minister’s Awards
Commended in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards


“A literary cocktail of rare originality. It is not hard to see why Mark Dapin’s stylish novel, set in Nineties Sydney, was such a critical success in Australia. The writing has real freshness … the story glides effortlessly from an intriguing start to a heart-warming resolution … Dapin impresses with the understated authority of his storytelling.” – London Daily Telegraph

“A little masterpiece of comedy and torment.” – The Australian, ‘Book of the Year’

“Frankly just wonderful … It’s funny, truthful, upsetting, moving and sheds a whole new light on an aspect of Australian war history … This is a beautiful, hilarious, frightening novel that has leapt straight into my top three for 2011.” – ABC Book Show

“Every now and then you can run across a writer who does a little magic. They take something that almost everyone thinks they know something about, re-examine it from a completely unexpected direction and present the reader with a whole new take on their expectations … Mark Dapin has pulled off a deeply human, but particularly Australian, bit of magic.” – The Courier-Mail

Read more reviews of Spirit House HERE


Mark guest blogs for Readings about his inspirations for Spirit House HERE.