Sunday, May 21, 2006

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

I just finished this book. It was indescribably wonderful! Thank you, Holly, for suggesting it.

The premise: The island nation of Nollop off the U.S. coast semi-worships their most famous resident, the fictional creator of the pangram (sentence using all letters of the alphabet) "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." They have a statue of Nollop with his sentence inscribed on tiles in the center of town. One day "Z" falls down, and the council of elders determine that this is Nollop speaking from the grave, challenging them by removing "Z" from their written and spoken language. Citizens violating the new alphabet face flogging, banishment, or death. But that's not the only tile to fall. The novel is written entirely in letters between the Nollopians, sometimes letters to out-of-town relatives, sometimes notes left on the refrigerator. Only a few pages are challenging to read because of the letter omissions. The plot is delightful, the character development charming, and the wordplay just plain fun. I can see some readers finding it overly clever, and it's true that the book is built on a gimmick, but it's a gimmick that doesn't prevent endearing characters and suspense. At 200 pages, it's a fairly quick read, and a thoroughly enjoyable one. It's going on the "never throw/give away" shelf next to my Jasper Fforde.

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