Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn

I actually wrote this review at the end of May – May 19th, if I recall correctly (as of course I unfailingly do) – but I couldn’t post it because I was planning to send a copy of the book to my good friend tim for her birthday (which was May 15th – yes, I’m a bad friend), and I couldn’t remember whether she read this blog or not, but I didn’t want to take any chances.  I wanted her to be joyously surprised by the arrival of her book.

Um, yeah, Ella Minnow Pea is awesome.  I will just detail for you the ways in which it is awesome.

One: It is epistolary.  I love epistolary novels.

Two: It is set in a fictional country that reveres the creator of the useful sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”  This sentence stands written in tiles in the center of town, and when tiles start falling down, the country starts eliminating the fallen letters from their vocabulary.  On the assumption that the creator – Nevin Nollop – is sending a divine message to stop using those letters.

Three: The letter-writers stop using those letters.  Ya heard.  At first it is letters that aren’t awfully useful, like Z and Q, but then it is J (slightly more important) and then it is D (eek! Farewell to past tense!), and K and B and all kinds of things.  I bet that Mark Dunn used his thesaurus A LOT, and also the Search function in Microsoft Word.  Cause holy crap.

Four: Although it is satire about totalitarianism, it is not at all heavy-handed, largely because it is too busy being whimsical.

Five: The residents of the country make a deal with one of the councilmen whereby if they can find a sentence that uses all the letters of the alphabet, and is shorter than Nevin Nollop’s sentence (32 characters altogether), the elimination of fallen letters will cease, and all the banished people can come back home again.


This is a good book for me to send to my friend tim, because she and I are the sort of people who do this all the time.  I feel like at one time when we were chatting online, we stopped using the letter S and replaced it with D in all the wordd we uded.  Derioudly, if you have never replaced a letter with another letter you are midding out.  Hilarity endued.  (Hahahaha, that is still funny.  Midding means poop.)  In high school we learned Morse code and sent each other letters in Morse code, and we are both madly obsessed with finding words that are all standards, meaning that no letter goes above or below the line.  You are allowed to use “i” but it’s sort of cheating, so if you really take pride in it you will find words like savanna and occurrence, rather than words like renaissance and communion.  (Finding words with no standards is trickier.  Egypt works, but only because it’s a proper noun and the E has to be capitalized.

Anyway, you can see how this was an excellent present for me to send to tim.  I am convinced that she will love it.  Other views below:

Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness appreciates its wordy awesomeness
Rebecca Reads loved it in spite of limited characterization, something I hadn’t considered because I was too busy concentrating on keeping my brain from exploding with joy at how brilliant and fun this book was
Fyrefly’s Book Blog, creator of the lovely book blog search I now use, enjoyed how the book made you start watching for forbidden letters and thinking of synonyms
Book Nut fears it was too clever for its own good but enjoyed it
Ace and Hoser Blook thought it was silly.  Not in a good way
On My Bookshelf looooved it
Reading, Writing, and Retirement is reminded of Ladle Rat Rotten Hut which is AWESOME
Reading and Ruminations
Maggie Reads
Confessions of a Book Habitue

Tell me if I missed yours!

6 thoughts on “Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn

  1. awesome review, everything I loved about the book too. It was the challenge more than the characters.
    I think your friend will love the book too. Standard words, eh?

  2. Oh, I definitely agree – I think characters are important in character-driven books, but this was more plot-driven, and it was so much fun.

    Yeah, standard words. I thought of a really good one yesterday, but I didn’t write it down and now I’ve forgotten. Can’t wait to hear what she thinks of the book though!

  3. Thanks for the link!

    I also didn’t mind the simplistic characters because I was having so much fun with the wordplay. This book made me laugh all the way though.

  4. I didn’t think the limited characterization was really a huge negative on this type of book: I think it was just supposed to be fun! And it succeeded. I’m glad you liked it too!

  5. Pingback: Review: The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde « Jenny's Books

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