Communion Town by Sam Thompson
|Communion Town by Sam Thompson|
|Genre: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A collection of stories, each as different as their perception of the setting. This novel is as genre-defying and original as it is intriguing, inviting a second reading as the layers beneath the surface gradually emerge.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: July 2012|
|Publisher: Fourth Estate|
Communion Town – one city but it may as well be many as each person's perception of it is coloured by their experiences within it. Each chapter introduces us to a different story, a different viewpoint and therefore, practically a different city. Starting with the ominous, creepy story of Nicolas, through stories encapsulating such themes as recaptured friendship, murder and an enigmatic take on the life of a private investigator, we start to piece together the nature of Communion Town... or do we?
This may be Sam Thompson's first novel, but it's incredibly confident for a debut. This English teacher and erstwhile contributor to such august publications as The Times Literary Supplement and The Guardian has jumped straight into the world of enigmatic quirk and it's definitely paid off. The book blurb likens him to science fiction/fantasy writer China Mieville and it has a point as, like the divine Mr M, Sam Thompson weaves fascination from the threads of confusion creating something I just had to read in one sitting.
Each chapter is a new story and each is indeed totally different from the last. The first (Communion Town) throws you into a dystopian society whereas Good Slaughter is a murder mystery with a twist. The Significant City of Lazarus Glass crosses something much akin to a Sherlock Holmes homage with names that would grace the pen of Mervyn Peake. (What's not to love about Hyperion Wiell?) Some stories have identifiably tidy endings like my favourite, the clever, almost 'Tales from the Unexpected' inspired and Raymond Chandler-esque Gallathea. Whereas others, like The City Room leave you to dangle as you evaluate the connotations and reasoning.
As different as the individual parts are, there are common threads running through the whole that reassure the reader that the location remains the same: the recurring carnation, the dishevelled man needing to tell the story we never hear, the sinister effect of the story on those to whom it's told... Once the end is reached, we realise that we aren't just ignorant of Communion Town's nationality, we don't even know its planet but we don't miss the information. The author has given us much to ponder as each uncertainty triggers greater curiosity.
Come to think of it, Communion Town the novel is very much like a music CD. At first a favourite track springs to the fore, but you know that you're going to put it on again once you get to the end; once through just isn't enough. The next time you realise and understand more and so your favourite changes... and the next time... and the next. Perhaps this isn't the book for those who like their narratives to have a comfortable beginning, middle and end, but if you enjoy a book that gets under your skin, setting up home there for a while, look no further.
I would like to thank Fourth Estate for providing Bookbag with a copy of this book for review.
If you've enjoyed this, then perhaps you'll also enjoy Kraken by China Mieville.
Communion Town by Sam Thompson is in the Man Booker Prize 2012.
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