My book review of 'James' by Percival Everett

by Percival Everett
by Percival Everett

This author is very much in favour at the moment with the success of the film 'American Fiction' based on his 2001 novel 'Erasure', and there's been lots and lots of attention for this his latest novel. I was desperate to read it! 

It's a retelling of Mark Twain's 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn', from the perspective of the runaway slave and Huck's companion, Jim.

This story begins at the Mississippi River in 1861. Jim learns that he is about to be sold to a new owner in New Orleans and separated from his wife and daughter forever, so he decides to hide on nearby Jackson’s Island until he can take his next step. Huck Finn meanwhile has faked his own death to escape his violent father who recently returned to town.

The two travel along the river in the hope of reaching the free states and beyond. And their journey of survival is also a period of reflection and revelation. 

I've read three books by Percival Everett this week as I've prepared for the two book group meetings (which are both reading his books, oddly - see below), and not being able to resist this new novel. It's been wonderful, then, to find Everett to be such a fascinating writer and the three books all so different. 

I loved this book. It was funny and clever, while also horrifying and terribly sad. The pace is such that you can't put it down and are sorry to come to the end. My only issue was that I realised how unfamiliar I was with the original Twain story. It was a very long time ago that I read it, and I felt I needed to revisit it to fully appreciate the genius of this book. It's brilliant.

Date of this review: May 2024
Book publication date: 11th April 2024