A copy of the UK 'Signed Independent Bookstore Edition' of 'James' by Percival Everett.

Chepstow Books & Gifts is the nearest proper bookshop to where I live. It’s a good little shop but I seldom buy there owing to my usual penny-pinching preference for used volumes. The amount of stock they can carry, moreover, is necessarily limited by their small premises. Looking around a few weks ago I spotted paperback copies of Percival Everett’s novels The Trees and Dr. No on their shelves and considered buying one or other of them, having been vaguely curious for a few years about this author’s work. Then, displayed on a table, I spied a ‘Signed Independent Bookstore Edition’ of his latest novel James and ended up buying that instead. I finished reading it the other day.

The novel is “a re-imagining of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the perspective of the runaway slave character Jim.” as wikipedia briefly summarizes it. I barely recalled the plot of Huckleberry Finn having read it over forty years ago, but that proved no impediment to enjoying this re-telling of the tale. Hazardous as grafting one’s story on to another writer’s work must be, Everett makes a great success of it here, lightening the desperate drama of the protagonist’s predicament with sharp and clever humour. While it’s not without some rough edges, I don’t think that further polishing would necessarily have improved on the entertaining and thought-provoking story we have.

Percival Everett's signature in a copy of his novel 'James'.