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Communion Town: A City in Ten Chapters

3.07 of 5 stars 3.07  ·  rating details  ·  379 ratings  ·  94 reviews
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
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Kindle Edition, 289 pages
Published July 5th 2012 by Fourth Estate
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Maya Panika
A highly, almost painfully, literary series of stories; some I enjoyed very much, some not so much, some not at all. All are written in an absorbing, poetic style, with a literary brilliance that blankets rather than shines. Communion Town abounds with strange and original metaphor; it feels experimental, and a little too self-consciously clever.

What is it about? Is it about anything, really? I thought I was catching clues, like the clever use of grammar: `Time is strange in certain rooms.' Then
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Blair
Subtitled A City in Ten Chapters, Sam Thompson's debut is a collection of ten short stories: all are set in the same unnamed city, and all have loose connections with the others. The city itself remains an enigma, though its many districts have colourful, slightly offbeat and evocative names - Sludd's Liberty, Glory Part, Low Glinder. The narrative style varies enormously, from the cool, detached tone typical of literary fiction, present in (my favourite) 'Outside the Days', which recalls the be ...more
Maciek
I've read this because it was nominated for the Booker prize, and I was intrigued by its interesting structure. I'm a fan of short stories but these have no place on the Booker list, as its focused entirely on novels, so I expected Communion Town to be a series of stories linked by characters, events and the ubiqutos place - after all, it is subtitled a City in Ten Chapters.

Have you noticed how each of us conjures up our own city? asks the book's opening title story of Ulya and Nicolas, a pair o
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
This novel is on the 2012 Booker longlist, and is not described as short stories; it seems to be ten different narratives in the same fictional city. This city has such a strong effect on people that it becomes its own character. There is a drawing accompanying each section that comes from part of the title page, and appears to be a segment of the city.

There are unknown creatures (maybe monsters?) in at least one story, unnamed narrators, and the city morphs between feeling Soviet to English to
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Jessica
I set myself a challenge on my vacation. It was to read the Man Booker Long list, or as much of it as I could. I didn't know anything about the books, so I was approaching them without any inkling of the stories or the authors.

And I started with Communion Town.

I wish I hadn't.

I struggled to get through it and was bored by the characters in the shorts. Not liking or identifying with a character in a short story is fine, because you only live with them for a few pages. When you live with the sa
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Nikki
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. ...more
Ben Dutton
Communion Town, by debut novelist Sam Thompson, is one of the more surprising entries in the 2012 Man Booker Prize long-list. Though the cover blurb does not advertise it as such – though it hints at it – this is a collection of ten short stories set in around the same fictional city. This, as a description, however, suggests continuity, and this is the last thing on Thompson’s mind. Much like Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, the one city seen in this work changes dependent upon who is telling ...more
Cheryl
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 fa
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Alice
Communion Town is elegantly written, but it reads like a technical writing exercise in which the author demonstrates his facility in terms of genre, imagery, and dialogue. It is enjoyable and very well written, don't get me wrong. I recommend the book.....but perhaps not as the Man Booker Prize winner. The plots are unoriginal, although interesting, the structure of the book (telling the story of a city from multiple perspectives), while not hackneyed, has certainly been done before in both film ...more
Nancy Oakes
I know I originally posted 4 stars, but this is (imho) a solid 3.5 star book -- not because it's not good, because it is, but because it made for a frustrating reading experience in parts. Read on, see the short version of why I say that, or click through and see the long version.

The subtitle of Communion Town is "A city in ten chapters," although it's really a collection of ten short stories with different characters in each one. Common among them all is the city which "doesn't stop, however a
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Darryl
This city is Epidamnus while this story is being told: when another one is told it will become another town. — Platus

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.

This strange and uneven but fascinating "novel" (using the term loosely) is set in Communion Town, a fictional modern city which is recognizable yet
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Aaron (Typographical Era)
With the exception of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which is a fairly straightforward by the numbers ordeal, all of entries that make up this year’s Man Booker longlist seem to share at least one commonality. In their own way each title attempts to challenge the reader’s idea of what they believe a novel should be. As its subtitle succinctly points out, Communion Town does so by playing with the boundaries imposed by standardized structure. Is this truly “A City in Ten Chapters” or is i ...more
Jason Edwards
I am giving Communion Town two stars for the simple reason that I did not enjoy it much. I can’t say that it is a good book, and I don’t want to be guilty of pandering to a kind of hive-intelligentsia just because it was chosen for the 2012 Booker long list. Let these ratings stand for how one liked the book, not how one assumes it will be received by literary critics. I’ve never read anything else by this author, and freely admit that maybe I just didn’t “get it.”

Ten stories, apparently, and ac
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Elaine
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
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Bernard Depasquale
I just don't understand this type of book. No idea what the author is expecting of the reader but, for me, it is way too much.

I don't understand why the author writes it, I don't understand why the publisher publishes it, I don't understand why it gets shortlisted for the Booker Prize and I don't understand why anyone would give it to me to read.

Tedious and self-indulgent are the words that immediately come to mind. If all the threats, mysteries, in fact, anything of real interest is not describ
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Mitchell
I do have such wonderful taste in Booker Prize predictions – I finished this one the day it was dropped from the list.

Communion Town is a “city in ten chapters,” which is a fancy way of saying that it’s a bunch of short stories with a few mild links, all taking place inside the same constantly shifting, everywhere-but-nowhere metropolis. I’m quite partial to stories that explore and celebrate the concept of the city – see Brandon Graham, China Mieville, Jeff Vandermeer, and, I suppose, Philip Re
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Mike
Admittedly, I didn't read the last chapter of this. I couldn't bring myself to it.

I wanted so badly to love this novel. I did, nearly, from the start, just reading the description there in the New Fiction racks at the library. I still do, in a way. The concept, at least. "Each of us conjures our own city, one of many incarnations; a place throbbing with so many layers, meanings, and hidden corners cannot be the same for any two citizens." Even after reading the book, I read that sentence and my
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Jen
Another collection of short stories, which were meant to tie into each other somehow, but I did not get it. This book required more attention and concentration than I was able to give it, so I gave it an extra star. I was in the mood for light reading, and although this book is small, it's very cerebral.
Communion Town seems like the author took his dreams (even nightmares) and put them together as short stories. None of the stories really made sense, and there was no type of ending. There was a
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Maxine
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 i
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Tamsen
These are too dream-like for me to enjoy. Thompson writes beautifully, but the stories lack substance, conclusions, and cohesiveness. The best for me was the short story, "Communion Town." "The Song of Serelight Fair" really could have been a favorite, if I had only understood the dream.

Some lines I liked:

"Nowhere is exactly as you think it's going to be, and when you settle in a strange city you soon find out there's more to learn than you suspected."

"And I know you can't help holding the city
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Silvia
I'd seen the title floating around on Goodreads a few times, partly because it had been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, but I wasn't sure it was for me. I forgot all about it until someone recommended it as the most interesting thing he'd read over the past year. Trusting this person's opinion, I bought the book.

When I finished it, I wasn't overly impressed. Rather than a novel, it's a collection of ten short stories on Communion Town, or 'a city in ten chapters', as the first page of the
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Tom Lee
It's bizarre that this thing made it onto the Man Booker long list. First: it's a collection of short stories. Second: it's not that good.

I'll admit that I didn't give Thompson as much attention as it seems like he'd prefer. I was vaguely aware of him rotating through different literary forms as I moved story to story, for instance. It's just that I couldn't really bring myself to care -- the puzzle of what each story represented wasn't enough to interest me, so why waste time wracking my brain?
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Mieneke
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 ...more
Vuk Trifkovic
First I was surprised to see it on the Booker longlist. Then I figured, there has got to be the reason. Then I got the book from the library and I saw beautiful jacket and superb blurbs by Aw and Mieville. So I thought "oh, alright then".

And then I got stuck in. And annoyed at first. I mean, a series of 10 stories about a quasi-fictional town, but clearly about London. Which annoys the hell out of me. Obreht did the same thing in Tiger Wife. It is so redundant. We all know what you mean and we c
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nomadreader (Carrie D-L)
(originally posted at http://nomadreader.blogspot.com)

The basics: The tagline for Communion Town is "A City in Ten Chapters." Aside from setting the stories have little in common, but instead they give ten different perspectives on the city of Communion Town.

My thoughts: I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this novel. I imagined the stories to have some overlapping characters and places. Instead, the more I read, the more convinced I became this book is not really a novel. Ultimately,
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Karen Rye
A novel? Ten short stories? Either way, this is simply sublime. After a page and a half I was convinced this was the best opening I'd read for a while.

Thompson may be a debt novelist, but he has talent in spades and uses the ten chapters to demonstrate his versatility to perfection. Some stories read like science fiction, another is straight from Chandler. Some are short, others more lengthy. Some have almost complete resolution, others feel like they end just as they are getting started.

There
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Liviu
very interesting stuff; literary and needs time to process, but I see why it got nominated; hope to finish it this week

INTRODUCTION: "A city in ten chapters.

Every city is made of stories: stories that intersect and diverge, stories of the commonplace and the strange, of love and crime, of ghosts and monsters.

In this city an asylum seeker struggles to begin a new life, while a folk musician pays with a broken heart for a song and a butcher learns the secrets of the slaughterhouse. A tourist stra
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Martin

Sam Thompson’s Communion Town is shape-shifting and ever-changing like the city itself. Its ambiguity is perhaps the main reason behind the lukewarm reactions of most readers. It’s not novel in the conventional sense of the word with traditional plot and narrative structure, but it’s not ordinary collection of short stories, either. The titular ten chapters can be read separately, but only when read together; the connections, common threads and motives arise.

Comparisons have been drawn to Italo

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Paul
On crowded streets, in the town squares and half-empty tower blocks, the lonely and lost try to make a connection. A weary gumshoe pounds the reeking sidewalks, seeking someone he knows he will never find. Violence loiters in blind alleys, eager to embrace the unsuspecting and the reckless. Lovers are doomed to follow treacherous paths that were laid long before they first met.

This city is no ordinary place. Here, the underworld has surfaced; dreams melt into reality and memories are imagined be
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Ben Thurley
Sam Thompson's Communion Town: A City in Ten Chapters is a curious, allusive collection of almost inter-related stories that walk the borderlands of dream and nightmare in a fantasy city, Communion Town. Peopled by revolutionaries and revisionists, highly socially stratified, and beset by a serial killers, a nameless pestilience, and the flâneur, a menacing figure –perhaps symbolic of the city itself –whose story-telling leaves its hearers irrevocably changed and damaged.

There's a poetic grace t
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Sam Thompson's first book, Communion Town, was longlisted for the 2012 Man Booker prize. He has written book reviews and other journalism for the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books, the Guardian and Scotland on Sunday. He was born in London in 1978, studied in Dublin and lives with his family in Oxford, where he teaches English at St Anne's College.
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“It was well past midnight, quiet, few people around. All noises had retreated. The night seemed to have its own resonance. At that hour, the city's a gong that was struck at noon and is not yet quite still.” 2 likes
“The interval of two notes could divide your heart and the tug of words against rhythm could mend it: I'd stumbled on the means to say whatever was true in this life. I only wanted the skill to do it.” 1 likes
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