Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn


“Ella Minnow Pea” is a truly original work of fiction. The story is both a clever satire of the perils of fundamentalism and a brilliant linguistic experiment.

That may sound like hard work, but it is a wonderfully accessible and readable tale.

The isle of Nollop is named after the great Nevin Nollop, creator of the pangram, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”.

The story begins as letters begin to drop from the public display of the famous phrase above a statue of the great man.

The local council, believing this to be a sign of profound significance, issue a series of edicts dictating that inhabitants must not use any of the letters that have fallen in any of their discourse or correspondence.

The book is entirely comprised of correspondence between the friends and family of the eponymous Ella Minnow Pea as they talk about their predicament.

As more and more letters fall and the pool of letters from which to communication and living within the strictly enforced becomes more and more difficult.

Many unwittingly contravene the edict. It is a desperate situation and there are formal punishments with many leaving the island and most of those who stay living in despair.

But it isn’t all dark. There is much humour too, and wonderful instances of love, friendship and community.

Resistance grows.

Dunn very skilfully makes the characters and their correspondence live, despite few, if any standard English words being available towards the end of the book.

“Ella Minnow Pea” is a fantastic achievement. It is not always an easy read but it is entertaining, rewarding and well worth the investment.

Thank you to the Book Nudgers group on LibraryThing for nudging me towards this one!

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