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Ella Minnow Pea

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  18,926 Ratings  ·  3,643 Reviews

Ella Minnow Pea is an epistolary novel set in the fictional island of Nollop situated off the coast of South Carolina and home to the inventor of the pangram The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog. Now deceased, the islanders have erected a monument to honor their hero, but one day a tile with the letter z falls from the statue. The leaders interpret the falling tile

Hardcover, 205 pages
Published October 1st 2001 by MacAdam/Cage Publishing
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43rd out of 331 books — 167 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Richard Derus
Sep 28, 2013 Richard Derus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 4.9* of five

This novel is about the unintended bad, and ridiculous, consequences of a very good idea. Nollop, an island off the American mainland, is a society rational and reasonable in its organization and actions. Its usage of the English language rests on the existence of the pangram, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." The founder of Nollop invested the pangram with great significance.

And now, in Ella's time, the letters of the pangram start falling off the founder's stat
Clever + Silly = waste of time and paper.

A ridiculous book, masquerading as something intelligent and thought provoking. There are plenty of far better books that raise issues of totalitarianism, censorship versus free speech, superstition versus science, loyalty to friends and family versus loyalty to the state, the power of language etc in more enlightening, entertaining and less gimmicky ways. I realise my opinion is very much a minority one, so perhaps I'm overanalysing and taking it too ser
Mar 18, 2015 Melki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
*WARNING - This is MY FAVORITE book of all time, so there will be gooing, gushing and shameless pluggery!

Welcome to Nollop, a quaint, autonomous island that lies quite near Charlotte, SC. Though the islanders shun modern technology, they take pride in their educated citizenry. Language is practically worshipped here, to the extent that the island is named after native son, Nevin Nollop, the author of the sentence typing students everywhere have come to know and dread:


For 100 years, a cenotaph ho
Original Review

Georges Perec wrote a novel without using the letter "e" even once. Dunn works a similar gimmick by writing this epistolary novel about an island that bans the use of certain letters as these drop off, one by one, from the statute of the creator of the phrase, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."

"Z" is the first to go, then "Q", then "J". Things get really difficult, however, when "D" falls off. Speech, indeed communication of any kind, gets increasingly difficult as th
I found this book at the Wilderness Library and very nearly didn't buy it. Just looking at the title, the words didn't exactly compute and I thought, "hmmm, this book seems kind of silly." Then I read "A Novel in Letters" and my shameless snoop side came out. I love, love, love reading books that are comprised of letters, I feel like I'm really snooping in someone's mail or diaries, and it makes it so interesting. So I picked up Ella and on my way to the car, said the title out loud and the ligh ...more
Apr 02, 2016 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: Richard Derus
Ella Minnow Pea is a girl who lives on a small island off the coast of South Carolina. This nation state, named Nollop after its founder, seems idyllic. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, tiles begin to tumble from Nollop's monument, and the Council interprets these as (pardon the pun) letters from heaven. But the island paradise soon degenerates into a totalitarian regime as hellish as anything conceived by George Orwell.

This, as other reviewers have noted, is a parable about the exercise of hum
Rebecca Foster
Dunn’s first novel is a book of letters – in more senses than one. It is a fairly traditional epistolary, yes, but it also toys with the letters of the alphabet: the wordy citizens of the island nation of Nollop are zealously engaged in creating pangrams (pithy sentences that contain each letter of the alphabet) in tribute to their founder Nevin Nollop, who authored “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” the original pangram displayed in ceramic tiles on his statue in the public square. ...more
Feb 19, 2008 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has been on my “to read” list for a long time. It sounded interesting: a book in which the characters revere language and the alphabet, and when letters fall from the statue that celebrates their culture, they are also dropped from the novel.

I’m pleased to report, first of all, that this book is wholesome, despite being on the national market and not just the LDS one (so many books I’ve picked up this year I’ve had to return to the library, unread).

And this book is good to boot. It’s l
MJ Nicholls
Apr 16, 2014 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, merkins, oulipians
An inventive epistolary and lipogrammatic novel mixing the prisoner’s constraint, pangrams, and neologisms to form an Oulipian feast. Perhaps a little Oulipo-lite? Perhaps. But the prose is impressive and despite the partial cheat towards the end (using phonetic sounds for words) the lipogram is successful and the plot something of a statement about censorship and the privilege we have in the West to use our language to express whatever we wish (and abuse this on a word-by-word basis). As someon ...more
May 13, 2008 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this perky, word-exacting fable; it was a quick read--a touch zany at times but thoroughly enjoyable.

And yes, I did intentionally use all the letters of the alphabet in the first sentence. It is, admittedly, harder than it seems.

The book is in the form of letters written among the inhabitants of a small island nation who prize, above all, their literary and vocabulary skills. When letters begin to fall from the city's motto (The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog), the city council
Jun 25, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
Ella Minnow Pea starts as a cute, light hearted book about a fictional country that idolizes Nevin Nollop, the man who discovered the pangram "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dogs." Written in the form of letters between townsfolk, the tale turns to fear as letters from Nollop's famous line begin falling off a statue erected to his honor. The Island Council decrees it is the will of Nollop (dead for nearly a century) for his people to no longer use those letters. Any one found using them ...more
Apr 11, 2013 ·Karen· rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 10, 2009 Milan/zzz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Indeed this was fast, interesting read but from time to time extremely challenging. Namely my level of English is not on such a high level to be able to fully absorb what this lovely novel offers. There were so many words I never heard before so in spite the fact I could catch the context I wanted to know their exact meaning. Therefore I had to have dictionary beside me (also English-English one). But in spite "hard physical" work this read was really enjoyable!

The idea is incredibly original an
Dec 15, 2010 Jasmine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
At some point (in my review, or the comments, or maybe in the comments on MJ Nicholls review) I refer to Foer's new book as an attempt to mass market the avant-garde. I mean some people hate this, I think these are the same people that are annoyed about the "twilight gets teenagers to read argument." Well I for one am a big fan of all of the ways that we are attempting to expand people's minds. I don't think people who are seriously literary should forgo the avant-garde or read twilight in place ...more
Nov 10, 2008 Lucy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It wasn't until I told someone, out loud, what I was reading that I realized the title, Ella Minnow Pea, really sounded like the "LMNOP" of the alphabet song. Now, of course, I have no idea how I missed it. Ella Minnow Pea. LMNOP. Obvious. So obvious I wonder what else I missed. Such a clever title. Such a clever book.

Ella Minnow Pea resides on the fictional island of Nallop, off the South Carolina shore, where all the residents are brought up in reverence of syntax and language. The founder and
Wiebke (1book1review)
This book blew my mind. I had not expected what I got.
The writing first of all is amazing, especially as it gets more challenging as the story progresses.
The story itself touches so many aspects that it is unbelievable that this book is so short.
The format of only including letters is perfect, as it shows the effect of the changes and the struggles and hardship of the people a lot better than any other form of narration could.
This is a fast read that will impress you and leave you thinking long
Apr 17, 2009 Ru rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i have scanned other reviews, and most of what other people said - "clever" "fun" "a puzzle" - certainly applies. and perhaps i should scan all the reviews, but i am a little surprised that no one on that first page seems to mention the book being a very succinct little allegory illustrating quite tidily the dangers of creeping fascism.

anyway, i really enjoyed it. unlike others, i was not irked by the sudden introduction of phoneme substitution at the end of the book - it seemed only reasonable
Mar 15, 2008 Alison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of words, language, and letters; everyone
Shelves: rgbookclub
Every once in a while, a broad, far-reaching concept can be scaled down and illustrated beautifully through simple, subtle story-telling as in parables and fables. This is one such example.

There's no real need to try to tell anyone the "story" behind this self-proclaimed "novel of letters". If you're a reader...just dive in and enjoy. It's fresh, clever, and fun. It's like reading a book and playing Scrabble at the same time...skimming a newspaper while doing a crossword puzzle. It's a wild, bri
Oct 19, 2008 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of letters and language
Book Number Two in the "Husband-and-Wife" (aka Tyler-and-Kate) Book Club! ;-> Hugely successful! We both loved it. Wonderfully creative. Love-letters to the English language and the human spirit, and also a cautionary tale on the dangers of wearing blinders in politics and religion. A thoughtful tale, and a joy to read! Highly recommended to all my friends who love language and letters (both epistolary and alphabetical!)

Nov 26, 2013 Sesana rated it really liked it
Ella Minnow Pea is, obviously, about censorship. It's also about mob mentality, about standing up for what's right before events get out of hand, about the corrupting nature of power, and about religious fundamentalism. And it's about word puzzles. Ella Minnow Pea is mostly written as a lipogram, entirely avoiding using one (and later, more than one) letter of the alphabet. It's also epistolary, written as a series of letters. Quite a lot to put on one small book. Does it hold up? For the most p ...more
Apr 20, 2009 Kim rated it it was ok
Shelves: meh-at-you
My god.... this is what I hate about 'hype.' I was so looking forward to reading this book... I thought 'what a cute idea!' (my voice actually squealed a bit) and 'what a great cover!' and----- I'm an idiot. I should know enough by now to not let my hopes get so high.

Stupid...stupid... stooopid.

Okay, it's a cool idea. Really. The whole revering the language but also revering a man who came up with a sentence that doesn't really revere the language because it's celebrating creating a pangram. Ya
Mar 25, 2016 Cher rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2 stars - Meh. Just ok.

The concept of this novel, a progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable, is very creative and it had to be incredibly tedious and challenging for the author to write. Unfortunately, the execution of the concept resulted in an implausible and rather dull story. On the other hand, it's worth picking up if interested as it is an extremely fast read being short and epistolary - you can read the whole book in less than 2 hours.
Aug 04, 2015 thebookfox rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
The inner linguist in me LOVED this book! I thought it was incredibly clever and creative.

I would only recommend this to people who are interested in language use and who are able to read this with access to a dictionary as it is stuffed with words I didn't know!
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I needed to engage my sense of humor on this, and I admit at first it didn't come into play. The first letter gone missing was the Z. Was there no one on the island named Elizabeth? Eventually, however, I got into the mood of the thing. The Islanders became quite creative in both their choice of words and their spelling. Toward the end, the spelling was almost beyond creative. I thought of the "gibberish" I complained of in Cloud Atlas. Fortunately, this gibberish was very, very short!

I had expe
Feb 10, 2009 Kat rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kat by: Emma
I decided to read this book after my friend Emma said it was one of the most creative books she's ever read. I admit, this one was certainly refreshing.

Told in the epistolary style, Ella Minnow Pea follows the trials of the island residents of Nollop as they struggle to maintain control of their language as more and more letters fall into disuse. The reader gets to know the characters through the notes they write to each other. When members of the alphabet start being banned across the island, i
Book Concierge
5***** and a

On a fictitious island nation off the coast of South Carolina, the people pride themselves on their literacy and writing. Their founder, Nevin Nollop, is credited with writing "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." A sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet, and which is memorialized in the town square. But when a letter tile falls from the monument, the Council takes that as a "sign" from above, and decrees that they should no longer use THAT letter. The far-r
I love-love-LOVE this tongue-n-cheek, epistolary, cautionary, crazy-brilliant lipogram-tale! Oh the madness!!! Oh the marauding wordy-nerdy-fun!!!! Poke-in-the-eye truths encompassing the dangers of complacency and passivity and the unquestioning blinding-blinders of status quo en masse!!!

This is my third adventure with Ella Minnow Pea, and it just keeps getting better. My first foray was years ago, back in North Carolina. A book club selection that kicked-off quite a firestorm discussion; an e
Caleb Ross
Click the image below to watch the video review

This may be one of my top 5 or 10 novels of all time. It has the perfect blend of crazy concept and beautiful execution that I love. It reads like a collaboration between Mark Z. Danielewski, Jorge Louis Borges, and Jose Saramago.
I was seriously underwhelmed by this book, which actually meant I was very disappointed. The concept is great and I admire the author's skill and perseverance at finding words to convey a story through diminishing letters, but I still wasn't grabbed by it. I felt cruel and wicked not liking poor Ella.

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,*
Nancy O'Toole
The people of the Island of Nollop have a passion for language and Nevin Nollop, the man responsible for the phrase “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” a simple phrase which contains every letter in the alphabet in only thirty-five letters. They even have a statue erected of Nollop with his famous phrase displayed on tiles. Then one day, the Z falls off of the statue, and the island's Council is convinced that it is a message from Nollop himself. They declare that henceforth, the lett ...more
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Around the Year i...: Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn 7 45 Jan 22, 2016 11:07PM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn 3 13 Oct 24, 2015 04:47PM  
Letter Writers Al...: Ella Minnow Pea 6 64 Aug 03, 2015 06:33PM  
As the tiles fall, write sentences without using the illegal letter. 71 50 May 28, 2014 06:38PM  
Chapel Hill/ Durh...: September meeting was a success! 1 28 Sep 25, 2013 07:08AM  
  • Extravagance
  • A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays
  • The Fall of the Athenian Empire
  • Novels, 1930-1942: Dance Night / Come Back to Sorrento / Turn, Magic Wheel / Angels on Toast / A Time to Be Born
  • The Meaning of Consuelo
  • Quattrocento
  • The Holy Barbarians
  • Just a Couple of Days
  • The Song Reader
  • Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos
  • The Song of Names
  • Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature
  • Lisa And David
  • The Art of Fiction
  • Fat Land
  • A Quiet Storm
  • Goldilocks & Three Bears: Bears Should Share!
  • Rescuing Patty Hearst: Growing Up Sane in a Decade Gone Mad
Mark Dunn is the author of several books and more than thirty full-length plays, a dozen of which have been published in acting edition.

Mark has received over 200 productions of his work for the stage throughout the world, with translations of his plays into French, Italian, Dutch and Hungarian. His play North Fork (later retitled Cabin Fever: A Texas Tragicomedy when it was picked up for publica
More about Mark Dunn...

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“Lately, I haph startet painting my torso in pretty, motley hews. I sit in phront oph the mirror in the sleepy-room. I atmire my hantyworg. I am a hooman apstrat paining.” 9 likes
“Perhaps in time, Ella, the words we have lost will fade, and we will all stop summoning them by habit, only to stamp them out like unwanted toadstools when they appear. Perhaps they will eventually disappear altogether, and the accompanying halts and stammers as well: those troublesome, maddening pauses that at present invade and punctuate through caesura all manner of discourse. Trying so desperately we all are, to be ever so careful.” 8 likes
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