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Communion Town [Hardcover]

Sam Thompson
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 July 2012

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.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007454767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007454761
  • Product Dimensions: 22.5 x 14.4 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 465,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sam Thompson's first book, Communion Town, was longlisted for the 2012 Man Booker prize. He was born in London and lives with his family in Oxford.

Product Description


‘Subtly and deftly, Thompson succeeds in capturing the experience of city life … Thompson can make a sentence sing in a way that is uniquely his own … Turning the pages of COMMUNION TOWN you become aware that here is a new writer working out what he can do, and realising that he can do anything’ Telegraph

‘Ambitious, haunting and beautifully written … Thompson succeeds in making the familiar seem strange and wonderful’ Daily Mail

‘A book packed with powerful, memorable writing … Thompson’s engrossing, memorable debut is worthy of close, appreciative reading not just from Man Booker judges, but everyone’ Sunday Times

‘Thompson's ten interlinked tales, longlisted for the Man Booker this week, deconstruct genre and myth while remaining original and superbly unsettling’ Guardian

‘His writing is highly wrought and beautiful, with that sense of leisure and perfectionism one often finds hanging around the dreaming spires – he’s incredibly intelligent and assumes you are too. As the ten stories unfold you’re left with a vivid picture of an imaginary city with its own character’ The Times

‘This impressive debut captures a city’s shifting personality through ten stories. With unanswered questions and Gothic tinges, its kaleidoscopic approach blends into one bewitching picture’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Subtly linked tales … details are joyous’ Independent on Sunday

‘Wonderfully atmospheric and full of a subtle gothic horror that eats away like dry rot at the timbers of this city, Sam Thompson’s accomplished debut weaves many voice into a beguiling urban chorus’ TLS

‘The 19th century motif of the flaneur – basically a figure who experiences a city through the act of walking – is revived to creepily dreamy effect’ Metro

‘Dreamlike, gnarly and present, COMMUNION TOWN shifts like a city walker, from street to street’ China Miéville

‘COMMUNION TOWN is one of those rare creatures – a first novel that combines ambition with humanity. It is a strange, remarkable work’ Tash Aw

About the Author

Sam Thompson was born in 1978. He read English at Trinity College, Dublin, and is now a tutor at St Anne's College, Oxford. He also writes for the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books and the Guardian. He lives in Oxford with his wife and son.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Mix 11 April 2013
The first thing that struck me about Communion Town was the premise. It's an interesting idea, bringing together a collection of ten short stories that attempt to capture the heart and soul of an entire city. Each story focuses on different people at different times in the city's history, but all trying to offer some insight into the place that they inhabit.

The big question though, is does it actually work? Well, for the most part yes, it does. I'll come back to that later. First off, a quick look at some of my favourite stories.

Gallathea - A down at heel private eye searches the endless city streets for a missing person. This may be the standout tale for me. I suspect the book blurb writer may agree as it's directly mentioned on the back cover. Thompson gets the detective noir flavour of this spot on. Add to that a surreal layer of what may be mind-bending time travel and you'll find one of the some of the collection's most intriguing moments right here.

Good Slaughter - Reminiscent of Joseph D'Lacey and his rather wonderful horror novel Meat, this story follows an employee of a slaughter house as he comes to a shocking revelation about the work that he does and the city as a whole. Possibly the darkest episode in the novel, and all the better for it. There is a raw quality to this story that makes it suitably shocking.

The Significant City of Lazarus Glass - Meet detective Peregrine Fetch, Communion Town's very own Sherlock Holmes. He is endowed with the keenest of analytical minds and uses it to unravel the sinister crimes of the city's criminal fraternity. Fetch's latest case finds him tasked with uncovering the individual responsible for the deaths of the great detective's own contemporaries. This story made the collection for me.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A city and its stories 26 Aug 2012
By Eleanor TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As other reviewers have remarked "Communion Town" seems more like a collection of short stories than a novel. In ten chapters, Thompson shows us disparate episodes in the lives of the inhabitants of an imaginary town. The world he creates is recognisable but, with just one remark, Thompson can send everything off-kilter and we realize that the city as seen through the eyes of his characters might actually be quite different from the one we are imagining. The individual chapters are great and I think all would work as standalone short stories. Throughout Thompson creates a creepy, sometimes Lovecraftian, atmosphere infused with horror and cosmic dread. There is also a Chandleresque episode full of noirish observations (a thug looks 'about as reassuring as a vending machine in a lift') and a great Sherlock Holmes pastiche starring Peregrine Fetch, 'the man who solved the Theft of the Paper Orchid, and who exposed the trickeries at work in the affair of the Nightmare Gallery'.

Although the chapters are very different they are linked both by the city and by a mysterious man-thing who becomes more prominent (and more terrifying) as the book progresses. The subtitle of "Communion Town" is 'a city in ten chapters' and I think Thompson does succeed in mapping the place whilst at the same time showing how the same environment can be very different depending on whose story is being told. Thompson does not make things easy for the reader, and one has to be prepared for ambiguity, fragmentation, and hints rather than explanation. By the end I found myself reading back over past chapters appreciating the at first indiscernible thread Thompson had woven through them.

I'm not entirely convinced that "Communion Town" works as a whole, but I greatly enjoyed and admired this strange and disturbing novel.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is an unashamedly post-modern text that is deeply critically- and theoretically-informed. If you're looking for a book with a recognisable plot, characters and central narratorial stance then this is certainly one to avoid.

Unlike some of the other reviewers here, I don't see this as a set of short stories. The fluid and fractured narrative works like a mosaic of voices which converge and diverge at points throughout the text, and the `story', if there can be said to be such an overarching thing, constructs itself in the interstices of what is told. The multiplicitous voices position this as a self-conscious move away from the authority of a single, omniscient subjectivity, and celebrate the notion of marginality, a defiant rejection of a controlling and structuring centre.

There are some extraordinary moments in this book - the `monsters' who inhabit the limits of Communion Town; the strange beauty of The Song of Serelight Fair - and an amusingly tongue-in-cheek postmodern homage to Sherlock Holmes (via Umberto Eco) in The Significant City of Lazarus Glass.

So this is ambitious, very clever, sometimes a bit too smart for its own good, but always deeply interesting. Just be aware that if postmodernism snarls up your head, this would definitely be one to avoid.
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Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
First published back in July of 2012, British author Sam Thompson's debut novel 'Communion Town' received much attention upon its release, having been longlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize.

DLS Synopsis:
Communion Town - 26 pages
He knew so much about the two of them - Ulya and Nicolas. Ever since they'd arrived at Communion Town, he'd kept a discreet eye on them. Watching as they went about their lives. Following them through the urban grime that surrounded them. A grime that over the years Nicolas had become accustomed to. Accepted in his life. However, things would come to a head in Communion Town when a cell of ten men and women, known as the Cynics, instigated a shutdown of all access into and out of the underground transport system for the city. As the public watched through the CCTV systems, twenty-seven people were left stuck underground, with no food, water or any sign of rescue. And then the monsters arrived...

The Song Of Serelight Fair - 54 pages
He made good money at night transporting the mostly drunk and disagreeable about the city in a hired rickshaw. And that's how he first met her. His rickshaw had broken down and he was having a tough time with it all. And then ten days later he saw her again, this time during the day whilst he was working as a cleaner at the university where she studied. They talked, connected and soon enough were lovers. He would play with her guitar, learning the notes and chords. And then one day she bought him his own guitar. And his life suddenly had a direction. He had a purpose and a goal. He devoted his time and energy to writing his songs. Perfecting their sound, until he was ready to perform. Meanwhile their relationship was losing its footing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 1 month ago by xxx
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Interesting but a difficult read
Published 1 month ago by Ushawman
1.0 out of 5 stars A good story buried somewhere...
This author can obviously write and create a sense of place, but he deliberately sets out to confuse the reader with strange twists and inexplicable asides that do nothing but make... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Callum
4.0 out of 5 stars A really interesting read
Sam Thompson's book at times reads like an exercise in style in which ten short stories are shoe-horned into fitting into a greater puzzle which is the 'City in Ten Chapters', that... Read more
Published 17 months ago by M. O. HAYNES
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe not a destination for a City Break
This is a novel told as a succession of short stories, linked by the City, the 'Flaneur' and glimpses of characters from other stories in the book. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Penny Waugh
3.0 out of 5 stars wanted to like it more than I did
With an accolade from China Mieville I was expecting great things from this book, and sadly I was a bit disappointed. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Cat R
5.0 out of 5 stars Great first novel
I really liked the way this book is written. In some ways it is more like a collection of short stories than a novel as each chapter sees "communion town" from a different... Read more
Published 18 months ago by jonim
4.0 out of 5 stars Exercise your brain
It's been a while time since I've read a contemporary, mainstream work, that could be categorised as 'literary fiction', the last one was in August last year, and that one had a... Read more
Published 19 months ago by W.M.M. van der Salm-Pallada
3.0 out of 5 stars Some lovely writing, but rather dull.
This is the work of a very accomplished writer. There is some lovely use of language here, but some of the stories are dull and I am struggling to finish the book.
Published 20 months ago by Pierre Alphonse
1.0 out of 5 stars Style over substance
This is not really a novel, but a set of linked short stories - linked by the city in which they are set. I liked the premise of the book, but the realisation left me cold. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Kentish Woman
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