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Communion Town Hardcover – 5 Jul 2012

3.1 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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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: 14.1 x 2.7 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 444,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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By Eleanor TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 26 Aug. 2012
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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Format: Paperback
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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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: Paperback
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 strong genre slant, as it was a post-apocalyptic tale. And while Communion Town certainly has genre elements, for me it falls squarely in the literary fiction section--and yes, I agree, literary fiction is as much a genre as speculative fiction, but that's a wholly different discussion and an entirely different post. This collection of ten stories is difficult to describe in one adjective. Interesting doesn't do it justice, because it's more than that, it was a thought-provoking read. At the same time, I found reading it really hard work, having to reread passages quite often and generally reading at a slower pace than I usually do. But while at times a bit of a slog, it was never boring. So I find myself at a bit of a loss as to how to judge this book. Taken separately, I'd say many of these stories are quite good, while those that don't stand as well alone are enhanced by the whole. However, I don't know whether I'd say that the collection as such worked for me, mostly because despite all being set in the same city, I kept looking for a further cohesion between the tales, a theme if you will, which they all shared. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it, but I'm not sure whether that's a failing of the text or me failing as a reader.

In fact, there were some returning threads, such as the Flaneûr and the man who wants to share his story. There is a lot of loneliness and lost people. Communion Town isn't a happy place. Beyond that the true nature of the city remained elusive. Sometimes it felt like Victorian London, sometimes like a place in a totalitarian state behind the Iron Curtain.
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