Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters

A Progressively Lipogrammatic Epistolary Fable

by Mark Dunn
Publisher: Anchor Books
Reprint, ©2002, ISBN: 9780385722438
Trade Paperback, 208 pages
List Price: $14.95 Sale Price: $12.71

The people of the tiny island of Nollop value the English language above all else, and certainly, they have a right to—one hundred years ago, their tiny island was the home to the great genius Nevin Nollop, who created the pangram sentence The quick fox jumps over the lazy dog. They live on their island happily, writing extensive letters to one another filled with long or even archaic words and generally enjoying the full English language far better than their 'vocabu-lazy' American neighbors across the sound. Until the unthinkable happens.

In the town square, there is a statue raised to honor Nevin Nollop and his famous sentence. One day, without warning, the tile containing the letter 'Z' falls to the ground and shatters. Now, as Ella herself suggests, any rational person would assume the fallen tile was the result of the hundred-year-old glue finally giving out. But the Council, who presides over the island, has a different idea: Nevin Nollop is sending a message from beyond the grave. The letter 'Z' is to be used no more, and every word containing it is banned from being spoken or written. The punishments are severe (from flogging to banishment or death), and so the Nollopians go about attempting to remove the letter 'Z' from their vocabulary.

But then another letter falls. And another. And another. 

Ella Minnow Pea and her family and friends must race against the clock to find another pangram shorter than The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog before all the tiles fall and they are left with no words at all. 

This clever novel—any novel with such an ambitious subtitle as 'a progressively lipogrammatic epistolary novel' must be either very clever or very stuck-up—will delight anyone who is a lover of words. It is filled with lighthearted humor and delightful wordplay, as the island's inhabitants must find ways to communicate with fewer and fewer letters of the alphabet. This book is sure to entertain (and may even increase your vocabulary!).

- Review by Emily Wright

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