Sunday, November 28, 2010

Book Review - Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn

Title: Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel In Letters
Author: Mark Dunn
Year: 2001
Page: 208
Genre: Fiction - Epistolary

New to me author? Yes
Read this author again? Probably!
Tearjerker? No
Where did it take place? US - fictional island Nollop
FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from

Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram,* “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl’s fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere.

* pangram: a sentence or phrase that includes all the letters of the alphabet

First Sentence:
Dear Cousin Tassie,
Thank you for the lovely postcards.
Why did I pick this book?
I have heard of this book before. I thought the title sounded interesting then and had no idea what it referred to. I remember I'd read the book description before but did not remember what it was about at all - I probably thought it was too boring and not something I was interested in. I'd totally forgotten this book until I read Bermudaonion's Weblog's review and it really sparked my interest!

My thoughts:
  • What a delightful, cute, and clever book! It totally not what I expected, and I am glad I read it. Though I don't love it.
  • NOTE - the review may have some spoilers - it's hard to talk about this book without talking about this book! 
  • I am a sucker for WITTY books - and this book fits the bill. We have all heard of A Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog - can you form another sentence using all 26 alphabets, but no more than 32 alphabets total? This was the challenge set forth in the book. How about being punished for using certain letters in spoken or written language, e.g. you cannot use D (and B and Q and L...) anymore? I don't think we really appreciate each alphabet until we can no longer use it! I can't help but think that when Dunn wrote this book, he must have used the "search" function a lot to make sure his story avoid using certain letters at different point of the story
  • This book was written in Epistolary style (in letters) - and I enjoyed reading books in this format
  • This book reminded me of Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows in many ways - I resisted to read both books in the beginning, thinking they are not something I'd like; both are written in letters format; I found both delightful (and it's not a word I use often, to describe books or otherwise); even the characters and atmosphere of the two books were similar somewhat.
  • There were some elements I didn't quite like though - the beginning was a little slow, and we didn't really get to know any of the characters too well 
  • I also don't quite understand why the book was titled Ella Minnow Pea? It is one of the main characters (but really not that big of a role since there are multiple characters and none of them really stood out). Anyone can share insight? I do like the subtitle "A Novel In Letters" - it really is, in 2 different ways! [NOTE - google is my friend - found out this possible explanation of the title).
  • I also don't quite get the cover design? There are several covers but none of them really reflect the story I don't think.
  • Not to get political, but this story definitely touched on how ridiculous some rules/laws could be, set by the government (or council or management or leadership or whatever). I don't typically like symbolic story too much, but this book wasn't too abstract
  • While it probably won't be a All Time Top 10 books, I quite enjoyed its cleverness and it was a fast read. It falls into the "I'm glad I read it" and "surprise" categories. I think it's just one of those books you just have to be in the right mood to read - I obviously didn't feel like reading it before, but perfect for what I wanted to read a couple of days ago (something light but still make me think)

    Rating: 4 Stars

    Have you read this book? 
    If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

    100+ Reading


    1. I also got interested in this from Kathy's review. I like clever books too, although not so much epistolary books (although I loved the Guernsey etc. book) but I am pretty sure I'll try this one eventually!

    2. I'm glad you enjoyed this book! I think it's entitled Ella Minnow Pea, since that sounds like L, M, N, O, P and those were the last letters left. I'm not sure about the cover, though.

    3. @rhapsodyinbooks - I think if you like Guernsey, you'd like this. I didn't think I'd like Guernsey either. What don't you like about epistolary books? I like this format - I guess it lets me be nosy without being nosy in real life :)

      @bermudaonion - I think you're right about the title, as I found a site that said the same thing. I'm just too dumb to figure that out :)

    4. I loved this book, and my biggest thought on it was, "How Clever!" It really was super clever and I think that the author must have been a genius. Glad that you liked it!

    5. Oh..thanks for sharing this book! I really enjoyed "Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" so I'll be adding this to my library list!