This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Communion Town: A City in Ten Chapters by…

Communion Town: A City in Ten Chapters

by Sam Thompson

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
14710120,927 (3.39)1 / 50



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Brilliantly rendered prose. This is a rich complex network of stories which are supposedly subtly linked, but for the most part I couldn't see those relationships. The stories require vigilance and concentration. Reading the stories of Communion Town was to constantly be reminded that the reader is only a visitor there, and will never really understand that odd and vaguely menacing place.
This is Sam Thompson's first novel but his writing is remarkably assured and confident. He has an amazing facility for writing in different voices, most notably in 'Gallathea', a dynamic and muscular hardboiled-crime style story, replete with a gumshoe detective that calls women "dames". In 'The Significant City of Lazarus Glass', the story is told in the style of a Sherlock Holmes caper, and even ends with satisfyingly, albeit bizarrely twisted, inevitable logic. "City Room" is told from a child's knee-high view and is tinged with inarticulate fears of things that can't be understood.
At the edges of the stories are shadows of creatures and of the Flaneur, ill-defined, barely mentioned, and swiftly abandoned when they feel the reader's gaze. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
This exceeded my expectations, that's for sure. Ten stories, vaguely linked, set in a city (and it was fun to pick up on parts that felt like real cities, I got a lot of London, New York, and Paris) with a bit of a magical realism thing going on, but not so much as to be annoying. Each story was relayed in a different genre style, and the author played this up pretty successfully -- I felt like the narrative voices were genuinely different while still making up a cohesive book. I saw a review that compared this to Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities meets Gattaca, and that seems very reasonable to me.

There's no real overarching plot, it's definitely more of an atmosphere piece (at least in the sense that nothing comes to a big reveal, although the links between the stories do provide some added significance to the events described). Being mostly a lazy person, I think I need Cliff Notes to really make all the connections between the chapters. ( )
  delphica | Jan 31, 2014 |
Sam Thompson’s debut novel, Communion Town, was long-listed for the Booker Prize in 2012. It consists of ten tales, mostly unrelated, and not all equally enjoyable. The town, itself is a nightmarish place where the vast majority of its inhabitants lead sad and desperate lives in dingy apartments and the nights are populated by creepers, serial killers, and other things that bump up against you in the middle of the night and whisper the worst kind of horror into your ear.

Each of the ten stories is told by a different narrator in a different voice and genre, everything from the creepy narrator in the opening tale who seems to be stalking a young woman, to the hard-boiled ‘40s era detective in Gallathea, to the worker in an Abattoir who is convinced that his boss is a serial killer known as Le Flaneur who is terrorizing the city.

Communion Town offers little in the way of community for its inhabitants. Many of the characters have come to the city seeking a better life like the young musician in The Song of Serelight only to have their dreams completely shattered by the town. Death and disappointment seem to be the only things able to survive well in Communion Town.

The stories are supposed to be linked but, with the exception of a couple of the tales (notably about the Abattoir), the link seems to be mainly in their almost unrelenting darkness. Although, at times, the stories seemed overly clever (as in, for example, Le Flaneur has one heck of a literary pedigree which I only learned because my rusty high school French wasn’t up to a translation and I had to look it up) and not all of the tales were equally well drawn. However, author Sam Thompson’s prose is absolutely stunning and his ability to create a completely chilling atmosphere is outstanding. This is the kind of book which requires more than one read and perhaps a handy Norton’s Anthology to be fully appreciated but it is well worth the effort. ( )
  lostinalibrary | Dec 30, 2013 |
My life was on hold the second I picked this book up. What a mightily impressive debut. A series of ten short stories all set in one fictionalised, timeless city. While there are some shared threads between the stories, they are tenuous to say the least.

As with all short story collections, the quality varies. The first couple are outstanding and 'The Song of Serelight Fair' (the second story), is particularly haunting and completely hypnotic.

The two weakest stories in my opinion are pastiches of classic pulp fiction and a Sherlock Holmes style whodunit. These are both very cleverly written but (like Ben Dutton says in his excellent review) after a few pages it started to wane for me.

What I took most from Communion Town was a great hope for the future work from Sam Thompson. Clearly a very gifted writer and I for one can’t wait to see what’s next.
( )
  ElaineRuss | Sep 23, 2013 |
Not sure what to think of this one. It's beautifully written, and each story drew me in and made me question and tilt my head and try to figure it out, but I don't know if I found it satisfying. I wanted to know more -- of course, that's what you're meant to feel with this book, I think, so in that the author succeeds. But I look for satisfaction when I read a book, not to feel like it was a three hundred page tease -- I want a glimpse, if only a small one, into the heart of the work, the city. I wanted to go just a step or two closer to the Flâneur.

In practice, this book is not a novel but a collection of short stories, each of which is only mildly conclusive in itself, often almost circular. The opening story caught my interest with the narratorial voice, and some of the other stories in their pastiche styles amused me, but... it's like that line from The Vintner's Luck, flirtation and not love. I was entertained and amused, so it's not as though I bounced off the work entirely, but nor did I really participate. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
It's a fitting way to begin a book that stages its own struggle with inherited conventions of form, genre and style, and cycles speedily, even hastily, through several possible responses. For Communion Town, subtitled "A City in Ten Chapters", the further implication of the motto is that cities are not single but several; they not only change over time but present different versions of themselves to the people who pass through them. "Is it impossible," a character asks, "that among my contemporaries, in the very same streets and lecture theatres, some moved in a rare and secretive world?"

People in Communion Town keep finding other people's cities crammed into places they thought they knew, which makes for an ongoing process of urban renewal. And this in turn engenders a parallel work of literary recuperation. Characters come and go, passing transformed but recognisable between stories. We encounter a 1940s-style gumshoe and a Holmesian detective; an abattoir shift-worker and a child at play; drinkers and teachers; serial killers and jeunesses dorées.

Communion Town is ambitious and Thompson's prose is well wrought, at times maybe overwrought. There are sweeping cinematic passages and moments of fine-grained detail: a butcher's stall displays cuts of meat "in their shades of lavender, plum, pastel and candy-pink"; a wall is covered by "great pale maps of mildew". Then again, as a character considers the consequences of an action, "Ramifications knit in his head." To ramify is to branch out; to knit is to weave. The conceit is too full of its own metaphors, too full of itself.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Observer, James Purdon (Sep 8, 2012)
Sam Thompson's Booker-longlisted debut rests on a premise similar to that of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, comprising subtly linked tales, here concerning a nightmarish city. The title story is transfixing. A wheedling voice tries to lure a female immigrant from her incarcerated boyfriend. The narrator is craven, creepy, revealing that he has been spying, almost in a supernatural way. ("Locked doors aren't a problem.") Despite attempting to ingratiate himself, he is chillingly cold about the shocking events commonplace in this city of extremes: strangers collapsing on the city's streets; terrorist attacks that force ordinary people into contact with the "monsters" who survive in the city's underbelly.

In Thompson's city the majority live in deprivation. Slums are described with visceral power. The "half-demolished high-rise with the open sockets of bedrooms" conjures up a bleeding mouth with rotten molars gouged out. In "The Song of Serelight Fair", a rickshaw boy falls for a volatile female passenger. She takes him to society events where the inhumane treatment of the working class is taken to dystopian extremes: serving staff are fitted with music boxes in their chests to entertain clients, and punished if they don't comply with passes made by the patrons. A play mirrors the boy's fate, but he fails to take warning.

These first two stories epitomise the book's strange, haunting motifs. Evil looms. In "A Good Slaughter", an abattoir worker is convinced that his boss is the city's notorious murderer – but he may be dangerously deluded. In "Gallanthea", an entertainingly malign pair of heavies, the oxymoronic Cherub mobsters, warn a detective off an assignment. The city sweats, a plague-like illness causing doctors to don the sinister beaks of old and paint red crosses on victims' doors. Dialogue veers between Cockney and private-dick American, but details are joyous: bright light on a hangover thrusts "white lances down ... optic strings"; "blackheads stuck out of his nose like peppercorns". The ending is dissatisfying for its refuge into non-realism.

While the running thread of the Flaneur character, wandering the streets with ominous purpose, is intriguing, it feels like a cop-out that most of the tales end in fantasy. The characters who wear a lapel carnation throughout also seem token, like the ubiquitous birthmarks in Cloud Atlas. We see the power balance of relationships: a student in the hip crowd allows an admirer on to the periphery of his life to bolster his own ego; a man strings his girlfriend along, despite being bored. But both these stories would have ended better without them returning to the common theme of the city's murderer or monster. Thompson should not be afraid of the ordinary, it is often the residence of the extraordinary.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Independent, Leyla Sanai (Aug 19, 2012)
Beginnings are far trickier for anyone who sits down to write a first novel. The opening sentence must strike a balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar; it must announce the arrival of an original voice, but without falling into the trap of sounding merely zany or obscure. Above all, the reader’s initial encounter with a novel must make them want to read on.

Take the opening of Sam Thompson’s compelling first novel, Communion Town. “Do you remember how you came to this city, Ulya?” a character asks, and immediately we are caught up in a fictional world where questions are always easier to come by than answers. This world is mapped out in 10 stories, each told from the perspective of a different character, who inhabit a city that could be London or New York were it not for the fact that its districts have dystopian names like Sludd’s Liberty and Twistgate.

At first sight these stories seem to be wholly detached from each other. As the book develops, however, sly sideways connections emerge, and we start to see the same events from different perspectives. In one story a young musician watches as someone is thrown out of a bar; 80 pages later, the scene has swung round 180 degrees, and we watch “Some skinny kid with a violin case… gawping” from the battered point of view of the person who has just been ejected.

Subtly and deftly, Thompson succeeds in capturing the experience of city life, in which most human contact never gets beyond curious glances, and individual stories are forever bouncing off each other.
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
This city is Epidamnus while this story is being told: when another one is told it will become another town.

For Caoileann and Oisín
First words
Do you remember how you came to this city, Ulya?
Have you noticed how each of us conjures up our own city? You have your secret haunts and private landmarks and favourite short cuts and I have mine, so as we navigate the streets each of us walks through a worlds of our own invention.
The city is a mystery when you notice it's full of sunken side streets falling away from you beside river and canal, by yellow and pink brick terraces, in September for instance, under castles of foliage, in deep light. Someone approaches and you're sure you recognise him, you've met just once, and not long ago, but he vanishes away down one of those streets and you miss him. You feel you owe an apology. And it only gets deeper, the riddle of it, as years go by and the special creatures stay exactly the same, just as they were when Stephen went with them. The modulation of names and faces makes no difference at all.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0007454767, Hardcover)

The Man Booker-longlisted novel explores how each of us conjures up our own city. Every city is made of stories: stories that meet and diverge, stories of the commonplace and the strange, of love and crime, of ghosts and monsters. The iridescent, Man Booker longlisted Communion Town is reminiscent of David Mitchell's Ghostwritten and Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, it is the story of a place that never looks the same way twice: a place imagined anew by each citizen who walks through the changing streets among voices half-heard, signs half-glimpsed and desires half-acknowledged. This is the story of a city.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:12 -0400)

The Man Booker longlisted novel is explores how each of us conjures up our own city. Every city is made of stories: stories that meet and diverge, stories of the commonplace and the strange, of love and crime, of ghosts and monsters. The iridescent, Man Booker longlisted Communion Town is reminiscent of David Mitchell's Ghostwritten and Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, it is the story of a place that never looks the same way twice: a place imagined anew by each citizen who walks through the changing streets among voices half-heard, signs half-glimpsed and desires half-acknowledged. This is the story of a city.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.39)
2 6
2.5 2
3 5
3.5 3
4 12
4.5 1
5 2

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 134,159,992 books! | Top bar: Always visible