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Review: Ella Minnow Pea

November 19, 2010

Nollop is a small island off the coast of South Carolina.  It’s an autonomous nation that is named for its most important citizen, Nevin Nollop.  Nevin is most well known as the creator of the pangram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”  The sentence is displayed under the statue of Nollop in the town center, and one by one, the letters are falling off of the display.  The first letter to fall is the “Z” and the island’s Council meets and decides that it’s a sign from Nollop that their citizens should no longer use that letter.  The letter Z is banned from the written and spoken vocabulary of everyone over the age of seven with pretty severe penalties for anyone who doesn’t comply.  At first, things don’t seem so bad – if you have to lose a letter, what better letter than Z?  But, as things progress and more letters fall, people start to wonder how much longer they can live with these edicts.

I thought Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn was one of the most clever books I’ve read in a long time.  Since it’s “a progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable,” every time a letter falls from the statue, it’s no longer used in the book.  Can you imagine how difficult that would be to write?  Dunn does a fantastic job, although there are a few pages toward the end of the book that are a little difficult to read, and I had to read a sentence or two out loud to understand them at that point.

Nollop reveres liberal arts education and loves language while considering modern technology a nuisance.  Because of this, the citizens of Nollop are oddly formal, so the letters at the beginning of the book are somewhat staid.  As more and more letters fall, the letters become a little less formal.  It was fascinating to see how different characters reacted to the edicts – some resignedly accepted the edicts, others welcomed them (even turning in neighbors), still others turned themselves in and some were openly defiant.  Isn’t that how people have reacted to the erosion of their freedoms throughout the years?  I found myself wondering how I would react in a similar situation.

Ella Minnow Pea is the main character and I loved the way she quietly fights the government – I don’t want to give away any details, but she’s very clever in her own right.  I loved this book and recommend it if you want to read a book that is both thought provoking and entertaining.

I won this book from Tea Time With Marce.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
44 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2010 5:40 am

    I’m glad you enjoyed this one so much, sounds like it was a great read for you.

  2. November 19, 2010 6:16 am

    This does sound so clever! I can’t imagine what would possess the author to come up with this idea for a story, but I think it’s terrific.

  3. November 19, 2010 6:59 am

    I had heard about this book before, but had no idea what it was really about. How clever! I love clever. I believe I would be one of the defiants. I am stubborn that way.

  4. November 19, 2010 7:32 am

    This book does sound very interesting and different. I cannot tell you how many times I have almost picked this book up, but I guess now I will

  5. November 19, 2010 7:36 am

    Oh I love the sound of this. I love words and language and the cleverness of this premise. I really wasn’t sure about the book until I read your fabulous review.

  6. November 19, 2010 9:08 am

    I just bought this last month! I let Melissa read it, and she loved it, and I am actually really looking forward to trying it myself. Not only does the book sound interesting, the concept is really attention getting. I hope I can make time for this one soon, and I am so glad to hear that you thought it was great!

  7. November 19, 2010 9:17 am

    My daughter loved this book and added it to my list. I glad to hear you liked it so much, I can’t wait to read it.

  8. November 19, 2010 9:40 am

    I read this for the readathon, and completely enjoyed it. I knew it was going to be clever, but I didn’t realize it would also have a powerful message.

  9. November 19, 2010 10:12 am

    I would tweet your review. It’s great. Tried to find my book on the shelf I couldn’t find it. I have one more shelf to look through for it.

    By the way I’m beginning to like Word Press. Thanks for all the encouragement. Everytime I go away my subscriptions have to reload. I’m not doing something right. Well, I am really, really still learning.

  10. November 19, 2010 10:12 am

    This does sound delightfully clever! What a difficult task to write a book and purposely not use certain words because of specific letters that are in it. I like a book that not only has a great story, but also makes you feel that fascination on how it’s written.

  11. November 19, 2010 11:31 am

    Definitely sounds unique. I’m wondering about Ella Minnow Pea, how she fights back.

  12. November 19, 2010 11:33 am

    Great review, can’t say the book is for me, but I still enjoyed reading this 🙂

  13. November 19, 2010 11:39 am

    I’ve pulled this off of my TBR shelf a couple of times, but never made it my final choice. One day I’ll get to it. Glad to see you enjoyed it.

  14. November 19, 2010 12:12 pm

    Great review. This book sounds right up my alley. I’ve added it to my wishlist.

  15. November 19, 2010 1:01 pm

    This sounds like it would be so much fun to read. I’m off to find it.

  16. November 19, 2010 1:13 pm

    I never really had any intention of reading this book, but you’ve changed my mind. It sounds unlike anything I’ve read before, so I’ll keep it in mind.

  17. November 19, 2010 1:33 pm

    I’m glad you liked it! I haven’t seen that cover before, but it fits the book perfectly.

  18. November 19, 2010 2:18 pm

    I’d like to read this one, Kathy. Terrific review! 🙂

  19. November 19, 2010 2:45 pm

    sounds adorable! great review.

  20. November 19, 2010 2:57 pm

    sounds like an amazing book! i love books that make you think so i’ll have to give this one a try.

  21. November 19, 2010 3:07 pm

    Oooh…sounds clever and oh so tempting for us word lovers!!!

  22. November 19, 2010 5:43 pm

    I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book and can’t wait to read it!

  23. November 19, 2010 6:51 pm

    This looks fantastic, Kathy. I am definitely putting this on my list. And thank you for all of your enthusiasm, by the way 🙂 You are so wonderful!

  24. November 19, 2010 7:51 pm

    This is another one I sadly donated without reading. Now I am sorry.

  25. November 19, 2010 8:32 pm

    I read this last summer with my book club and expected to like it but in all honesty, I didn’t. Yes, it’s a clever premise but I found it annoying and the story just didn’t hold my interest. I didn’t care about the characters and had to push myself to finish the book. My book club was split, some loved it as you did. It made for a very interesting book discussion.

  26. November 19, 2010 8:37 pm

    This book does sound clever! I am glad you enjoyed it, Kathy! Great review.

  27. November 19, 2010 9:24 pm

    Well, I just love the title so I was curious to see what the book was about. It sounds so fun and amazing and such a challenge to write. This I’ve got to read for myself!

  28. November 19, 2010 9:40 pm

    I bought this one quite awhile ago and promptly forgot about it. Oops!

  29. stacybuckeye permalink
    November 19, 2010 9:51 pm

    I’ve been on the fence about this one. Glad to see you recommend it!

  30. November 19, 2010 10:04 pm

    That was a fun book. I’m glad someone else enjoyed that fun novel.

  31. November 19, 2010 11:03 pm

    I’m going to have to get ahold of this one. Thank you so much for the review because I had not heard of the book before.

  32. November 19, 2010 11:06 pm

    Thought provoking and entertaining are exactly what I need! Glad you really liked it.

  33. givingreadingachance permalink
    November 20, 2010 6:08 am

    I have been wanting to read this from the time the reviews started coming! I hope I will get this some day soon. Great review, I wonder if an alphabet is banned, what will we do.

  34. November 20, 2010 9:38 am

    I’ve had this for a few years and haven’t gotten to it, thank you for reminding me that I need to!

  35. November 20, 2010 11:28 am

    This book has such a fascinating premise. I’ll have to move it up the TBR list.

  36. November 20, 2010 1:37 pm

    Read this one a few weeks ago and really liked it. Was impressed that Dunn managed to keep the story flowing as his available letters were reduced.

  37. November 20, 2010 9:52 pm

    When I first saw the title of this book, I rushed to put it on my TBR. I just sounded like such a clever book. I couldn’t have been the only kid that thought that was part of the alphabet. LOL!

  38. November 20, 2010 9:53 pm

    I’ve heard a lot about this book, but yours is the first review that actually made me want to go pick it up. Such a unique premise!

  39. November 21, 2010 9:12 am

    I read this a few years ago and loved it- gave it to my mom, and she liked it so much she now teaches it to her high school English class. It’s really one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read.

  40. November 21, 2010 1:21 pm

    Hmm this is completely new to me. Going to take a peak further into it. The accolades seems resounding from the comments above. So much so that no doubt I will have to add it to my Must Reads next.

    Another thorough review which opens the reading world further.

  41. November 21, 2010 6:50 pm

    Love the premise and I think it’s very unique and interesting too! I need to move this book up my TBR pile! 😉

  42. November 21, 2010 11:11 pm

    What a great review! The book does sound really clever, and I’m glad you found it to be exactly that. It’s been sitting on my shelves for far too long!

  43. November 22, 2010 7:10 pm

    This does sound clever! I’ve seen it around but didn’t really know it was about. .

  44. November 28, 2010 1:45 am

    I read this book after reading your great review! I’d heard of this book before but never wanted to pick it up… but your review totally sparked my interest!

    My review:
    http://mentalfoodie.blogspot.com/2010/11/book-review-ella-minnow-pea-novel-in.html

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