Communion Town: A City in Ten Chapters is based on the premise of ten individuals, whose different stories of ‘the city’ are conjured and experienced separately, although their collective understanding is unified.
Reviewed by Fiona Martin
These are chilling stories of a place that never looks the same way twice: a place imagined anew by each citizen who walks through the changing streets among voices half-heard, signs half-glimpsed and desires half-acknowledged. Thompson’s delivery of each tale is poetic and fluid, with the title of each chapter having a connected, metaphorical significance. While ‘Gallathea’ is based on an original Elizabethan stage play, in which a virgin is called upon to be sacrificed every five years, ‘Good Slaughter’ plays on the paradox of a man who works in the meat packing district and is convinced his boss is a serial killer.
The city’s horror and disgust is personified through the grimy backstreets which lie waiting like open mouths to swallow up their victims into the dark crevices, its masses living in deprivation. This is echoed in the fragmentary style in which the stories are told. Rather than identifying with the protagonist, each tale is personified through the dilapidated surroundings ('A din of dying nightlife rose from the city centre, far away across the river, but around here the night was bleeding out undisturbed’).
Thompson deserves commendation for producing this first novel which flawlessly brings urban dystopia to life. Often mimicking literary greats such as Raymond Chandler through its microscopic examination a city debased by crime and sin, this novel achieves admirable momentum at the turn of every page.