Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn
Summary: Set on the fictional island of Nollop and founded on the pangram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” Ella Minnow Pea is an epistolary novel that chronicles the correspondences between various inhabitants of the island. Everything on the island is going quite well until letters from the pangram begin to fall from a statue in town, thereby moving the governing body to put a unilateral ban on each letter, respectively, as they think it’s a sign from Nollop himself. Will Ella and her cohorts be able to find a solution before every letter is eradicated from existence?
Review: I am a lover of language, so when I read that Ella Minnow Pea focused on letters, words and censorship, I couldn’t wait to read it. Fortunately, this book was incredibly well done, and my only wish is that I had read it sooner.
I’m quite sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I absolutely love epistolary novels. Something about the way in which they are written makes me feel as if I’m getting to know the characters on a deeper level than I would otherwise. One of the strengths of this book was the varying perspectives to which the reader was given access. The letters weren’t just between two people; rather, they were addressed to a plethora of different characters, and sometimes, even a formal letter by the council was presented to the reader. Telling the story in this way worked really well when taking the subject matter into consideration, as it physically showed the ways in which language was forced to change with every declaration of the council. It was also interesting to see the evolution from incredibly verbose to much shorter and nonsensical in order to fit into the constraints.
The writing itself was incredibly witty, and when the characters still had access to all of the letters in the first part of the book, the language was absolutely beautiful. I love that Dunn played with the idea of eliminating letters, and the fact that he had to pay such close attention to what he was saying throughout the book makes his effort even more brilliant. It even makes me want to try such an endeavor myself, just to see if I can do it.
Ella Minnow Pea was a great read, packed with humor, crazy governmental rules, and painstaking attention to language. If you’re a lover of words or epistolary novels, definitely give it a try!
Other Books by Mark Dunn: Ibid, Welcome to Higby, Under the Harrow