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Communion Town: A City in Ten Chapters

3.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  448 Ratings  ·  103 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
Kindle Edition, 289 pages
Published July 5th 2012 by Fourth Estate
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(showing 1-30 of 1,996)
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Maya Panika
Dec 04, 2013 Maya Panika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Oct 08, 2012 Jessica rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 05, 2013 Nikki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, contemporary
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
Aug 13, 2012 Ben Dutton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Aug 25, 2012 Alice rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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
Jan 20, 2013 Darryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 05, 2012 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
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
Terry Pearce
Apr 06, 2016 Terry Pearce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This teetered just on the right side of tantalising, giving the impression that there is a whole realised world inside the city (cities?) presented, but of which the reader is given only the same kind of slice as anyone gets living in any city. The prose is beautiful enough to carry it in the moments of confusion, and the strangeness -- otherness -- that lies behind the city in the stories enough to excite and unsettle. I think I might have wanted just a shade tighter connections between the sto ...more
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
Feb 26, 2014 Mitchell rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Catherine Woodman
Aug 04, 2015 Catherine Woodman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this because it was long listed for the Booker Prize last year, and on the eve of the 2015 list being announced, I wanted to finish up a few of the 2014 list that I hadn't read. This is an unusual book about a city that I could never quite figure out if it is in the present or the future. The town is definitely imaginary, and the book consists of 10 short chapters in a mix of literary styles, each focused on a different character, with only the thinnest of threads connecting them.

He intr
May 17, 2014 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jarryd Irvine
Jun 25, 2016 Jarryd Irvine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found it an intriguing read with wonderful and powerful use of language. My favourite stpry was in chapter 8 as it was the most conclusive story within the book. Due to the nature of the book, it is understandable that most of the stories within start at a seemingly abstract period of the characters' life, which is well contectualised no matter how far along or not the characters are, but most of the endings did not provide for satisfactory conclusiveness to that story. Irrespective, it was a ...more
Sally Hegedus
I was so intrigued by the plot summary for this book. I was sure I would love it. But, although the author indeed writes very well, I found these stories frustrating and disappointing. I don't mind having to use some brain power when reading, or mulling things over, but I just did not see more than the slimmest and vaguest ties between stories. I never got a satisfying picture of the city and what was going on there. Vague allusions to some kind of "monsters" and a pervading sense of danger or e ...more
Sandra Ingham
Jun 22, 2016 Sandra Ingham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
A lovely little maze of stories and characters, all linked by the city that envelopes them.
I quite enjoyed this read. A little like a book of short stories linked together, but not in a predictable or obvious way.
4 stars.
Aug 20, 2014 Jen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
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
Dec 30, 2013 Maxine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 09, 2016 Val rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookers
As a collection of short stories this deserves five stars, as a novel it might deserve two. They are good short stories, but they do not relate to each other or their setting as aspects of a city (and no, the bloke with a carnation popping up does not constitute a link). Forget any attempt at connections and enjoy the individual stories. They are written in a variety of styles and show the author's versatility.

The first story is couched as an interview of an immigrant by an immigration officer (
Mar 28, 2014 Tamsen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
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
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
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?
Mar 19, 2013 Mieneke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 23, 2012 Vuk Trifkovic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
nomadreader (Carrie D-L)
Aug 16, 2012 nomadreader (Carrie D-L) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker
(originally posted at

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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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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