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  • Writer's pictureLynne McConway

Book review: James by Percival Everett

Updated: Apr 12

A brilliant, blackly funny reimagining from the Booker-shortlisted author of The Trees.

A photo of kindle version of James resting against a bookshelf
James by Percival Everett

I thought The Trees couldn’t be bettered, but in his new novel James, Percival Everett has somehow topped it. The book is about Jim, the enslaved character from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and reimagines that story.

From the start, it’s darkly funny, absurd and satirical and turns an American classic on its head. I haven’t read Huckleberry Finn but a quick Wiki plot breakdown was all that was needed as the narrative really belongs to Jim. When he overhears that he’s to be sold and separated from his wife and daughter, he hides out to formulate a plan but becomes embroiled with Huckleberry Finn who is also running from his violent father.

Jim and Huck sail the Mississippi River, meeting danger and misadventure. I’m deliberately vague about the plot as a lot of the enjoyment for me was the surprise of the narrative with a very big reveal towards the end of the book. I just loved it: absurdist, grim, brutal and graphic. It is a difficult read at times but also necessary.

I’m still pondering what Everett is saying with James but I was reminded of Zadie Smith’s brilliant recent book, The Fraud, as both seem to explore liberty, freedom and what life is worth without these. Hugely recommended and must be one of the best books of 2024.


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