I started out really liking Communion Town – I remember thinking to myself that I might even like this one best. The stories draw you in and even the constant suggestion of monsters didn’t deter me. I liked that the city was in some ways so recognisable, yet definitively no city I have ever visited or heard of.
But over time it frustrated me. In each case, the same themes came up again and again, but each story felt open-ended. There was no feeling of resolution. I only knew I had got to the end because there was no book left to read, not because it actually felt over. And this novel was so unswervingly dark – no good came of anyone – and this exhausted me, it sapped all my energy.
After a while, I found I had stopped focussed on the characters, their frustrations and lives. And instead, had started picking out repeated themes, like an English teacher, preparing for a class.
Our worlds are constructed
“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 world of our own invention”.
“What I’d always thought of as the city was just an idea I had been inventing without realising it for longer than I could tell.”
Though we all live in the same city, each person’s city is different, as it is built by their imaginations, relationships and memories. Each story focussed on one person’s relationship with another individual and how that impacted on their feelings about their city and those around them.
Time is fluid
“if you took the right path… you could follow the evening as far as you wanted and never reach nightfall.”
“time was strange in here. He knew that the scene was in some way permanent, pinched out of sequence: it is still going on, somewhere, in the inturned landscape of houses, waste ground and streets where memory begins.”
“there was a catch in time, here beside the canal, and there seemed no way to move forward”.
“we all meet ourselves coming back every now and then”.
People are defined by their relationships with others
Each story focussed on the relationship between two individuals – how they defined themselves and each other, and how these definitions eventually led to their hurt, defeat or demise.
“You are the image by which I remember myself, Peregrine. Without you I would not be Lazarus Glass.”
“It was fascination enough that, whatever he did, he was doing it, so to speak, in relation to me.”
In a funny way, I would recommend this book. The underlying themes make you think about your world and how you define your place in it. But at the same time, I am not sure I actually liked it.