James

The Instant Sunday Times Bestseller

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Pub Date 11 Apr 2024 | Archive Date 13 May 2024

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Description

Selected as one of the top 12 reads of 2024 by The Times and Sunday Times

'This is the work of an American master at the peak of his powers' — Financial Times

An enthralling and ferociously funny reimagining of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, told from the perspective of the enslaved Jim. Written by Booker Prize-shortlisted Percival Everett, his novel Erasure is now released as the critically acclaimed and Oscar-winning film American Fiction, and James is set to be the literary event of 2024.

The Mississippi River, 1861. When the enslaved Jim overhears that he is about to be sold to a new owner in New Orleans and separated from his wife and daughter forever, he decides to hide on nearby Jackson’s Island until he can formulate a plan. Meanwhile, Huck Finn has faked his own death to escape his violent father who recently returned to town. Thus begins a dangerous and transcendent journey by raft along the Mississippi River, towards the elusive promise of the free states and beyond. As James and Huck begin to navigate the treacherous waters, each bend in the river holds the promise of both salvation and demise.

With rumours of a brewing war, James must face the burden he carries: the family he is desperate to protect and the constant lie he must live. And together, the unlikely pair must face the most dangerous odyssey of them all . . .

From the shadows of Huck Finn’s mischievous spirit, Jim emerges to reclaim his voice, defying the conventions that have consigned him to the margins.

'James has the potential to become a classic . . . thrilling, bold and profound' — The Sunday Times


'Gripping, painful, funny, horrifying . . . a consummate performance to the last' — The Observer

‘Both a page-turner and a profound meditation on the ramifications of slavery and self-hood . . . Luminous’ — TLS

*James was an instant Sunday Times bestseller w/c 07/04/2024

Selected as one of the top 12 reads of 2024 by The Times and Sunday Times

'This is the work of an American master at the peak of his powers' — Financial Times

An enthralling and ferociously funny...


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ISBN 9781035031238
PRICE £20.00 (GBP)
PAGES 320

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Featured Reviews

A masterful retelling of the classic American tale that was due a little historical revision. As in his Booker-winning The Trees, Everett's voice is as powerful as it is unique. Definitely recommended.

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4.5. I hate rewrites and reimaginings and after Kingsolver's rubbish Demon Copperhead, I was skeptical to read Everett's James (which is due to be published in March next year), but I adore The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and couldn't resist starting immediately when this advance copy was sent to me. Safe to say, pretty early on, this was going to be a different story.

The beginning follows the plot of the original. Many events that happen are exactly as Twain invented them, but of course, everything feels different: Jim is the narrator, and Everett has crafted him into something better. For starters: the way Jim speaks in Twain's novel is merely, we learn, a 'language' that all slaves speak, and put on, for white people. As soon as any white people leave a scene, Jim drops the act. And, at times it's clear Everett wants us to laugh, however uncomfortably, as soon as a white person reappears, Jim picks it up again, Lawdy, Lawdy! He can read, he can write. He harbours nihilistic tendencies. He is not Jim, but James.

And Huck. There is no shortage of reviews damning Twain's novel as being racist. There's no shortage of people thinking it should be banned, even now. I won't lie, I was unsure about how Everett would deal with it, because there's no hiding the fact that the original novel has had a controversial and problematic history. He nails it, though. Huck feels exactly like he felt in the original. It felt like reading Twain. Huckleberry Finn is a problematic person, as history often created; he is a child born into a world of slaves and racism, with a deadbeat and abusive father. And despite the horrible ending of the original novel, Huck, I believe, even in Twain, loved Jim. And Everett blossoms that.

By perhaps the midway point, Everett begins to steer the story. The plot changes. There are some twists and inventions. There are some Django Unchained moments of revenge and retribution. The book is riddled with satire, action, pain and suffering. I've only read The Trees but this already feels like the book Everett was here to write. This is a theory from Swann, my old professor: that every writer spends their life trying to write only one book, and everything else, all their other books, are merely tests, byproducts. Vonnegut's, for example, was Slaughterhouse-Five. This, I think, with my limited knowledge, was Everett's. It just feels like it. It feels like all his power and energy collected here.

If you haven't read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, read it. It's one of the Great American Novels. Then, in March, when this hits the bookshops, buy it.

A thousand thanks to Pan Macmillan for the advance copy.

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Percival Everett’s James is a reimagining of Mark Twain’s American classic, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which I read as a child, oblivious to the fact that Twain meant it as a satire. Everett’s novel turns the narrative around, unfolding the story from the point of view of Jim, the slave Huck grew up with.

Everett’s novel sticks to much of the original plot, narrated by Jim at a page-turning pace, including Twain’s set pieces while adding some of his own. As you would expect, there’s a great deal of satirical humour: Jim’s recruitment by travelling minstrels who insist he black up his light skin, pokes fun at the sheer ludicrousness of white men performing as happy singing slaves. Jim is literate and erudite, visited in dreams by various philosophers eager to explain why they’re against slavery but not abolitionists. The slaves have one style of language for public consumption, dropping it for conversations amongst themselves, puzzling Huck whose eventual understanding that Jim is not unlike him is hastened by a revelation that discombobulates him. The ending is immensely satisfying, and entirely Evertt’s own. A characteristically smart, funny, thought-provoking novel.

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A big thank you to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for the ARC and an even bigger thanks to Percival Everett for writing! This was sincerely one of the best books I've read recently.
First off I have to admit that I never read Huckleberry Finn, and after "James" I think I don't need to anymore.

Percival Everett's is a very unique literary voice, as I already found out with "The Trees" and "Telephone". In "James" he tells the adventurous journey of Jim the slave and Huckleberry Finn. (I don't want to spoil, so I'll leave it at that.) The two of them are in for a a wild ride along the Mississippi and racism. For or despite that matter it is disturbingly funny while it is also brutal by times in a very dry sense.

Only pitty is that I have to wait months now to buy myself a hard copy and read it again!

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After reading The Trees and finding it absolutely captivating, I had high hopes for James and I am so pleased to say that I was not disappointed in the least! Everett has managed to reimagine a childhood favourite and present it in a completely different light. 5/5

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One of my top 10 reads of 2023 & will recommend everyone to read it.

Such a devastating insight into slavery traumatic experiences, brought to life via following James, his thoughts & feelings as freedoms his family & other slaverys he finds on his way.

The writing is beautifully & I will never forget this. This book should be on education curriculum, to change racist abusive & controlled cultures around the world.

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"James" is the reimagining story of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, now told from the enslaved Jim's point of view.

This story begins at the same point as was Huckleberry Finn. Jim heard about Miss Watson's intention to sell him, while Huck was apprehensive following news that his abusive Pap is coming home. Both slave and boy ran away that night. First to the Jackson island, then along the Mississippi river, with a lot of adventures - misadventures is more appropriate; more dangerous than fun - and revelations.

Through James we were reminded of the extend of cruelty in slavery. Not only physical - the punishment, the lynching - but also the belittling of innocent human being. This novel is daubed as "both harrowing and ferociously funny". I personally think it's more thought provoking, though there are sprinkles of hilarity here and there, and of course, it's packed with the youthful adventures we are familiar with from Huckleberry Finn.

Needless to say, I am so impressed by this book, something I didn't expect. It deserves one day to be a classic of its own, which I believe Mark Twain would have approve had he read it himself. It's harrowing, but also hopeful.

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Many thanks to NetGalley and Panmacmillan for an advanced copy of this boo kin exchange for an honest review.

I'll start by saying I've not read Huckleberry Finn but I am roughly familiar with the story. I can understand why the book courts controversy with some feeling it should be banned.

I already know without reading it, that I like James better.

Everett has such a way of writing that makes you feel like very word has meaning and importance. Jim is an intelligent man who can read, write and is an astute thinker. He understands his world and his place in it but wants to find his own voice. I loved the humour in this book and how it was used, especially going from speaking perfectly eloquently and then into the slave language when the white people were around.

I really enjoyed this - highly recommend.

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I've not actually read Huckleberry Finn, so I had no idea of the storyline and how it would unfold. It turned out to be an interesting take of the escape of a slave and the various people that he came across along the way. It became rather dark in places, but it was quite an adventure and kept me reading and not wanting to put it down. I'll remember this book and would recommend it. I'm now off to read Huckleberry Finn!

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James is an absolutely brilliant reimagining of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" from Jim/ James’ perspective as he confronts the harsh realities of his circumstances having escaped from enslavement and seeking his freedom - it’s not always an easy read however it’s a truly moving and engaging one.
I anticipate that this will be one of the top breeds of 2024 it’s definitely one of mine.

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Percival Everett has done it again: as if it was not enough to have penned a perfect takedown of the publishing industry (in Erasure), or a deft, side-splitting spin on a deadly serious detective thriller (in Booker-nominated The Trees), now he's taken on Mark Twain, and triumphed - James is a pitch-perfect revision of a familiar tune; a relentless, remarkable rewriting of a Great American Novel that might even be better than the original...

Knowledge of Twain's (now much-critiqued) novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is useful, but not essential here - although the plot still roughly follows that of the source material, Everett offers a reworking which is at once page-turning and expertly-crafted; deeply aware of its historical context, and yet still resonating with the social and racial concerns of our current times. The plot is pacy, the prose is sharp and assured and lucid, and the ending - not to spoil anything! - is masterful, flawless.

As I was reading the novel, I was struck with the thought that no other author could have risen to such a challenge, and lived to tell the tale (quite literally) - if there is any book to pick up as soon as it hits the shelves this year (I loved it so much, I'm going to order a physical copy myself to re-read), make James the one.

Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for this ARC!

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It's over forty years since the first and only time I read Huckleberry Finn. I remembered parts of it: Jim, Huck in a dress, the raft, the con men, and several close encounters with riverboats. I remember it being Huck's story, with Jim as more of a supporting (if often pivotal) character.

Who better to tell Jim's version of this story than Percival Everett? I can't think of anyone else who could turn so much of Twain's book on its head while hewing closely enough (for much of the book) to the story beats of the original.

Everett throws a few choice wild cards into the mix, not least an early lesson in how to talk "slave" so white people don't feel threatened. This reverse code-switching is the source of a lot of humor in the book, and also a source of sorrow as it becomes clear how necessary it is. Everett leans into how Huck faking his own death close to the same time that Jim ran away raised the stakes to effectively mean a death sentence were Jim ever to be captured. He ratchets up the tension in ways Twain never did - he was notionally writing for kids, after all.

It's clear that Jim doesn't entirely trust Huck, and with reason, because the kid has no concept of how the world really works. Huck can't grasp how different Jim's life is, or how much more dangerous everything is for Jim than it is for him. He is told over and over again that he's too young to convince as Jim's "owner" but he won't believe it. He doesn't understand consequences and is too trusting of people, both of which make him dangerous even though he means well and seems to genuinely care for Jim. There's a lesson in there about privilege, and it's just one of many.

So, this book is emphatically not about Huck Finn, even though he's in it. It is really the story of how "Jim" becomes "James", about how far a man will go to find and free his family, and about how much suffering he will endure and witness along the way. There is danger, there is (so much) cruelty, but there are also little glittering moments of unexpected kindness (a cough as a hand reaches for a biscuit, for example), of fellowship, and of bravery.

Tl;dr: Percival Everett has done it again. You will be hearing a lot about James in the coming months, and rightly so.

Thank you to the team at Pan Macmillan for the digital galley and for my first 5 star read of 2024.

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4.5 stars rounded up to 5.

'James' is a brilliantly written novel. Although, of course it is inspired by 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' it feels fresh and gives voice to the character of Jim. The social commentary is clear here on the symbolism of language as a form of power and control.

I highly recommend this novel and look forward to its publication and the reaction of a wider readership.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC.

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A brilliant novel. It does all I ask from a good one: great protagonist (in this case also narrator, James (the Jim of Huckleberry Finn's adventures) whose new voice draws you to his world and mind with unerring pull; a proper plot and peripeteia that even if you think you may know, you don't; Ideas galore about history, education, politics presented in an unfailing narrative-driven manner; and last but not least that unmistakably (I think!) Everett's humour - wry, ironic, knowing and always totally FUN, but intelligent, intellectually stimulating fun: the entertainment that asks big questions by presenting radically human circumstances that have to be navigated with grit, wit, hope... a bit like the Mississippi that structures the runaway's quest...

So, proper adult entertainment. A novel that as it opened with a page inscribed "The Notebook of Daniel Decatur Emmett" I thought I would not be able to read, so difficult I found to understand and enjoy what seemed to me like transcriptions of (invented?) folk songs... well, they ARE, and they are real. We are made to read (no music) "Ole Dan Tucker", "Old Zip Coon" "Turkey in the Straw" "The Blue-Tail Fly"... and it is sobering reading. I should have known that the songs are real, that Daniel Emmett existed in real life... that he was (according to Wikipedia "an American composer, entertainer, and founder of the first troupe of the blackface minstrel tradition, the Virginia Minstrels.[2] He is most remembered as the composer of the song "Dixie". A notebook, language... the power of writing... no spoilers from me. This novel has to be read and enjoyed.

With tremendous thanks to the publisher, Pan MacMillan via NetGalley from letting me read an advanced copy and review this tremendous novel, James.

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Mr. Everett is retelling Huckleberry Finn: this time it's told from Jim's perspective and for some reason, it rewrites how I remember the story. He's about to be sold, and he wants to run away. He met Huck, the boy who ran away from his abusive dad.

Everett managed to put voice onto Jim: he's not just a mere sidekick, but a quick-witted person with wishes to be free like everybody else. The voices were distinct and clear; with some funny bones injected. Through his eyes, we experience the cruelty of slavery, the silliness of prejudice, and the flicker of hope that propels him forward. Jim's narrative is lacing a tone of humor, satire, and raw emotion, embodying him as a complex, multifaceted character.

While the original Huckleberry Finn, at least for me, doesn't age well because Twain failed to overcome prevailing racial stereotypes. There are such thing as white savior, as apparent it could be during tumultuous political age we are in.

“You know, you ain’t much darker ’n me.”
“I be dark nuff.”
“How come you’re a slave?”
“’Cause my mama was one.”
“What about your pa?” he asked.
“Prolly not. But it don’ matter . If’n dey know one o’ yo kin colored, den you colored. Don’ matter what you looks lak.”

😭

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I absolutely adored this book. Everett is such a talented writer - every sentence sparkles. I confess that I am not a Huckleberry Finn fan, but I wanted to read this book just for the cleverness of the premise, and it fully delivered. Everett’s Jim is thoughtful, funny, and richly developed, and he applies that same level of care to each character in the novel.

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James by Percival Everett

I first read Huckleberry Finn when I was 12 years old. It was our class reader - red, tatty and with countless other pupils names crossed out inside the front cover. My enduring memory was one of a rousing adventure around The Mississippi River. Now, nearly 40 years later, reacquainted with Huck and slave Jim, is an opportunity to relive some of those adventures seen through Jim’s eyes. I’m not sure if it this new interpretation, my advancing age or whether my recollection is clouded by the passing of so many years, but the adventure, although much in evidence, is greatly overshadowed by the despicable racism and unbearable cruelty of slave era America. Jim, now James is able to show us, the readers, his bravery and intellect, instead of hiding it from the white folks of the story.

This is a magnificently paced, beautifully written novel.It is also a reminder that the value of human life in monetary terms is an abomination; of the wretchedness and absurdity of intolerance.
One of the books of the year.

#docs.reading.room

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Published 11 April 2024. I'm not sure if I ever read 'Huck Finn' when I was younger, but a knowledge of the book was not needed for this novel which has been described as funny, but I found it anything but. I found it hard to read at times, harrowing even. While in the 'Huck Finn' novel, Jim, the slave, is very much a secondary character - I believe - here he is the main voice. We hear his voice, but here he is not Jim, he is James. He can read and write, he discusses philosophy with John Locke in his dreams, he looks out for his wife and daughter and has compassion for those around him. The book opens with extracts from Daniel Emmett's notebook, lines written in slave language, but written by a white man who appears in the novel. And so you have the idea that the masters expect slaves to talk and act in a certain way and this is what we see in James. The book opens with James/Jim waiting for Miss Watson to give him some cornbread. He talks to her in the way that she expects but once he is in his own space with his wife and daughter, his speech changes. There is one part where he is teaching the children how to speak to the white folk. So through the novel you get to see James as eloquent and smart and you feel for his condition, the fact that he is owned. So when he learns that he is to be sold and taken from his wife and daughter, he runs away. He is joined by Huck who has also run away from his abusive father and the two set out together down the river. James knows that the way he speaks impacts on the way people see him so he has to always make sure that he uses slave language around Huck although you get the impression that Huck likes James/Jim. But as the novel progresses, the author does not pull any punches with his graphic scenes of violence against slaves and although I believe that the story almost follows the 'Huck Finn' original at the beginning, we soon take a different and more treacherous path. And as for the ending - WOW! Rounded up to 5*

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What a fantastic book! I love the story of Huckleberry Finn so I enjoyed this book which is from the viewpoint of Jim. It’s thought provoking and heartbreaking. It does have humour scattered throughout. Overall, a brilliant read.

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James by Percival Everett: A Review
⭐⭐⭐⭐
Everett’s "James" is a compelling reimagining of Twain's classic, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", seen through the eyes of Jim (who prefers James), now the protagonist and narrator. This shift in perspective adds a fresh twist and brings it up to date and deftly handles the problematic parts of the original.
For those not familiar with the story, Huck, fleeing his abusive father, and Jim, an enslaved man seeking freedom, journey together down the Mississippi River, navigating untrustworthy characters and situations.
The novel explores race, prejudice and the intricacies of trust and human connection in the face of adversity.
There was humour and farce, pain and suffering, as well as love and sacrifice. I rushed through the 300-ish pages and would definitely recommend it.

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As with many readers Percival Everett first came to my attention with his novel “The Trees” - a very hard hitting, explicit and directly confrontational expose of the USA’s violent and racist 20th Century history of lynching which used humour, stereotyping (of white characters) and also the genre conventions of a detective novel in an extremely effective way to draw readers into something they would otherwise shy away from.

That novel of course was Booker shortlisted, which listing seemed like a long overdue international recognition of an influential, prolific, versatile but often overlooked literary author.

And this book – interestingly not published by his usual indy combination of Greywolf Press (US) and Influx (UK) but by the PHR group in the US and Pan MacMillan in the UK - will I suspect lead to his first big US literary prize win: one of the Pulitzer or National Book Awards would seem appropriate – and I would be far from surprised to see this doing very well on the Booker also.

The book is a rewriting of the often-claimed Great American Novel, Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” – one I think well known to many US readers.

For UK readers, who I suspect are much less familiar with that work, I would recommended reading it immediately before reading this.

I did and found that even putting aside the problematical elements (the speech used for Jim and the other slaves, the constant use of inappropriate of the N-word) the plot was a combination of Just William style children’s start and ending (with the clear sense of danger and existential jeopardy to Jim somehow lost) sandwiching a literally drifting plot as Jim and Huck escaped down the Mississippi. My favourite part was the rather amusing opening note (“Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot”).

And brilliantly this novel turns almost everything on its head.

Oddly – but perhaps part of turning my views on their head - my least favourite part of the novel was its opening – a rather too long extract from the lyric notebook of the leader of a group of Black and White Minstrels whose surname Emmett I assumed was a nod to the real life lynching victim Emmett Till whose murderers are the first victims of “The Trees”)

But from there everything I felt worked really well.

The novel has the same opening scene – with Huck and Tom Sawyer playing a trick on Jim, but here immediately it is Jim who on one level has the agency in the scene “It always pays to give white folks what they want” he thinks and deliberately sets himself up to be tricked. I sat “on one level” as while rewriting the life of “a significant literary figure who never had any agency” is what Everett has said drew him to this project.

And in Chapter 2, the other main aspect - the problematical language/speech – is immediately bought into play, in a scene when James (as he is known to his family) sits down with his wife Sadie, daughter Lizzie and a group of other children to remind them of how to speak in front of white folk: “White folks expect us to sound a certain way and it can only help if we don’t disappoint them,” I said. “The only ones who suffer when they are made to feel inferior is us. Perhaps I should say ‘when they don’t feel superior.’ So, let’s pause to review some of the basics.”

That becomes a recurring joke through the novel – Everett as in “The Trees” tends to repeat his satire – with not just James (extremely well read from his master’s library – with a particular interest in Voltiare and John Locke who even visit him in dreams to debate their ideas) but all of the blacks able to converse fluently but immediately switching to the speech of the slaves in “Huckleberry Finn” when in earshot of whites.

As in that novel, Finn (assumed murdered possibly by his alcoholic father) and Jim/James (who has escaped to avoid being traded away from his family – form an uneasy alliance and make an escape together down the river.

"Dusk came on, and with the fog we figured it was okay to set out. The Mississippi is swifter than it looks. It’s scary, for that reason. You can mess around in some branches and backwaters and start to think it’s gentle and then you get out into it and it’s a different story."

What is far more present in this novel is that Jim is permanently scared. The real fear of discovery/capture that dogs Jim’s every step – fear of being at best sold away from his family and at worst being brutally beaten and murdered (something later bought home to him in a harrowing scene involving retribution for a stolen pencil).

And when Everett has stopped being forced to follow the branches and backwaters of Twain’s novel – which is effectively up to when the two meet the con-men (the King and the Duke) – Everett takes the novel into a very different story. Far from the rather gently comical swindlers of the original novel those two are immediately focused on beating and selling Jim for gain and when Jim escapes and is captured his release is via the leader of the aforementioned Minstrels, who down a tenor decide to add for the first time (at least knowingly) a black man to their ranks – although James soon finds another of the minstrels is actually a white-passing slave.

As James adventures to continue – the book introduces two late twists: one directly relevant to and challenging the standard interpretation of Jim and Huck’s friendship (which I think will mean more to those more invested in the original); the other the very clever introduction of the first stages of the Civil War which allows Everett to further examine a theme which has run through the novel (white saviour complex) in a cross-history way. It then ends with something of a positive ending.

Overall an excellent piece of writing.

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My thanks go to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest feedback.

For the list of new releases for 2024, "James" had been at the top from the outset. There was an awful lot riding on this book, and it has exceeding all possible hopes that I had for it.

Percival Everett putting together a retelling of Mark Twain’s 1884 novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is the sort of situation – an occurrence in the literary canon – that leaves you wondering why you hadn’t imagined it happening already. It feels like such a perfect fit for Everett; so natural a path for him to travel down. I don’t feel a synopsis of the tale is needed here, only to say that Percival Everett’s retelling is from the viewpoint of Jim, the slave who partners Huck Finn on most of his adventures and escapades in the original book.

I find there to be a general aversion to retellings within myself, especially those that retell classic stories. Ones untouched for so long and yet still contain so much punch. For several reasons, I find that reading them can grind at gears I didn’t know could be aggravated. Many of the authors of these retellings come into it with the only aim being to modernise, spruce up, and transfer the tales into a current setting and context – a modern redo. It varies with the skill of the writer, but this can very easily lead to some toe-curling narrative structures. The attempt to modernise creates a potential pitfall whereby the author is inadvertently dating their work in the very present tense. Time moves quickly and these authors can’t see the wood for the trees. Give it a few years – hell, even a few weeks – and the times have already moved beyond that new retelling. Huckleberry Finn is a story that hangs it’s hat on everything that was culturally prevalent at the time. Sadly, that prevalence has never disappeared, and sometimes it feels like it has grown. The growth in the original story’s impact, as well as the need for this retelling, creates potential potholes and slippages galore that Percival Everett must navigate.

The perspective of the original book was always from the viewpoint of Huck Finn. For a novel that uses satire as a tool to dismantle and unbalance the attitudes towards slavery at the time, I feel Twain used all the tools at his disposal. Huck Finn can only see the impact of slavery, he can never feel what it does to a person. That difference in seeing and feeling is where the original story misses the mark. Not through any malice or purposeful erasure, but because Mark Twain, and therefore also Huck Finn, cannot truly know how the horrors of the time impacted black and minority folk. They can see it happening, but they do not truly know.

That switch in perspective that Everett employs brings freshness to the book (freshness may not be the right word, as it provides a far darker narrative than the word suggests). It is the unlocking of a voice that was always there. Jim’s voice in the background. He disappears on numerous occasions in the original story. This is obviously going to happen, because we are Huck Finn, and we go where his story takes us. The real story of the book, however, sits only with Jim, and it is truly his story to tell. Following the path that Jim travels along as opposed to Huck, means the satirical edge of the original tale is needed less, and the horrors of the time really come to the fore. Satire can only take you so far. We witness everything first hand in “James”, exactly as it is being felt by Jim. Huck can hide from it. He can turn a cold shoulder and shun the truth of the matter. Here, the protection of ignorance disappears, and we are confronted face-first with the whole evil of it.

Language was an important part of Twain’s book, with the voice given to Jim being so strong and alien to the rest of the cast. Twain explained this away as being accurate for the time, saying something along the lines of him having committed it to the page only after researching the best direction to take. Perhaps this was true, but it’s clear to see that equipping Jim with that use of language was just Twain succumbing to stereotypes of the time. Everett switches this completely, showing the powers in language and how the use of it could be manipulated to both protect and control. This power is obviously portrayed in the slave owners and their outwardly aggressive implementation of it. But it also belongs to the slaves themselves. It is a quiet, unspoken power. The silence and the things that are left unsaid – that is where Percival Everett excels above anyone else.

Twain’s original tale came at a time when we may not have expected it to. The release of this book, however, comes later than most of us could’ve wished. Thankfully, it was always in perfect hands and the execution can only be admired. Jim’s voice has been needed since forever ago. I’m just pleased that he can’t be silenced anymore.

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An absolutely incredible, funny, powerful re-telling of Huckleberry Finn. Everett continues to be at his best! I absolutely devoured this.

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This book was billed as a re-telling of Mark Twain's story 'Huckleberry Finn' as seen from the perspective of Jim, the slave. However, it is much more than that. The key facts in Huck Finn are all there (with maybe the exception of Tom Sawyer travelling with them) but the story is given much more flesh from Jim's perspective.

From the start the whole tone of the book is different - Jim is portrayed as a real man, with hopes and dreams, not just someone's chattel to be dealt with however they wished. The idea that the slaves actually spoke perfect American-English and only used slave talk around their masters is fascinating. Many prejudices and preconceptions are dealt with in the book as this shameful era in man's history unfolds.

James does run with Finn, and seeks his freedom and that of his wife and child. By the end of the book you are rooting for James to find his freedom during a time of war, although the nation will take a lot longer than his lifetime to rid itself of its prejudices concerning black people.

I thought it a really good book, it tells a strong story but also makes the reader think and question. The retelling of a classic could have gone very wrong, but this succeeds as it tells its own story, quite different from the original but hanging on the same frame. Perhaps this is the story Samuel Clemens really wanted to write but the mores of his time would not have accepted. By the end my heart was breaking.

Thank you to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for allowing me access to the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I read books pertaining to slavery with trepidation, but knowing Percival Everett's work I thought that this would be worth reading.
This is much better than Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn.
The storyline is not very pleasant, because it is a re-imagining of Mark Twain's novel.
The story is however very cleverly woven into the Twain storyline, with as much humour as can be found with such a serious underlying topic.
We often forget what a horrendous time some of our fellow human beings were having such a short time ago. Books like this are essential to remind the reader of such events.
Schools should read Twain's and Everett's novels in tandem and then discuss the probable reality of the events described with reference to real events.
My thanks to the author for bringing these important lessons to our attention once again, and for a marvellous read.
Everyone should read this book. It is excellent.
I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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Like most American teens, I read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in high school. I don’t remember the book having much of an impact on me, in fact, I think it might have been one of the few books that I ended up finishing on Sparknotes. However, when I saw that Percival Everett had written a retelling from Jim (or now better referred to as James) POV, I had a feeling I would enjoy it much more than its original counterpart. I did listen to some of Huck Finn on audiobook to do some prep, however, while I still enjoyed and appreciated the original Missouri dialect that Twain leverages easily, the constant use of the n-word was incredibly off-putting and at points distracting. While it made me a bit anxious to read Everett’s version, I should have known the care that he would put into modernizing the language and story. James gives new life to this classic tale, further inspecting race, slavery, class, and more, walking the fine line between telling a humours adventure but pointing out the horrors that took place in tandem. James reminds white audiences especially of the brutality and barbarity of slavery that is so often glossed over in the traditional classical books we often read growing up.

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