Synopses & Reviews
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.
Communion Town calls to mind David Mitchell's Ghostwritten, Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, and China Miéville's The City & The City, but is uniquely its own. This incandescent novel maps an imaginary city and explores the lives of its outcasts and scapegoats. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different citizen — defining the city itself as a character, both protagonist and antagonist — and each is told in a different genre, from a hardboiled detective story to steampunk to gothic horror, displaying the great range of Sam Thompson's literary ability. As the novel unfolds in different neighborhoods, we encounter a lovelorn folksinger, a repressed detective, a slaughterhouse worker, a lost tourist, a bon vivant, and a ghost. From their lonely voices we gather the many-faceted story of the city: a place imagined differently by each citizen as he or she searches for connection, transformation, or escape.
"Sam Thompson's debut, a novel of stories set in enigmatic Communion Town, landed a coveted spot on the Man Booker longlist. Like David Mitchell and Italo Calvino, Thompson has some fun trying out literary styles. One chapter is written as a noir-ish caper, another as a futuristic romance, another follows a serial killer, and there's even a lovely childhood fable with notes of magical realism. The cumulative effect is of a world simultaneously revealed and obscured: just when you've gotten a grip on Communion Town, it's transformed. Thompson's sentences are graceful enough that he mostly pulls off these crafty fireworks at least when it comes to miming a style. But too often, exhilarating sentences (like one describing the sea as 'full of the movements of an anticipatory audience, rustling programs, shushing itself...') are buried in descriptive layers that deaden an entire page. In the opening story, a dramatic event is obliquely mentioned over and over in the span of 20 pages. When the action is revealed, it hardly seems worth the wait. Thompson is a talented writer with a seemingly boundless interest in language and its potential; one can't help but wish that he applied some of his energy to getting to the point." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Thompson is a master of voice...as well as imagined geography....Communion Town is a book for the careful reader; the stories, though they stand on their own, build to a multi-narrative that rewards attention to detail. Thompson's dexterity in this regard is the surest sign that he is a writer to watch, and the Booker listing a sign of things to come." The Daily Beast
“Thompson inhabits each of his narrators completely and offers acutely crafted moments of piercing clarity — even beauty — throughout.” Denver Post
"What a place: Communion Town is a vividly depicted dystopia with a faintly steampunk air…meticulous prose…this accomplished book is quite novel indeed." Washington Independent Review of Books
“Lyrical and suspenseful… Communion Town serves as the real protagonist, a fully realized place that Thompson — with often breathtaking prose and versatility — peoples with cynics, dangerous wanderers, and lonely outcasts. A shadowy city saturated with life and lore, and held together by human struggles.” Booklist
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012, Thompson “is a new writer working out what he can do, and realizing that he can do anything” (The Telegraph).
About the Author
Sam Thompson was born in 1978. He read English at Trinity College, Dublin, and is now a tutor at St. Annes College, Oxford. He also writes for the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books, and the Guardian. This is his first novel. He lives in Oxford with his wife and two sons.