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Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel without Letters

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  21,382 Ratings  ·  4,100 Reviews
Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop, South Carolina. Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island's Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet in this love letter to language.
Published September 1st 2002 by Turtleback Books (first published October 1st 2001)
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Glauber Ribeiro No. :-)

OK, for real: it's clever and silly. If you are looking for something deep, you probably won't like it. It's entertaining.
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Community Reviews

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Richard Derus
Nov 07, 2012 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
Apr 20, 2011 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
Nov 07, 2012 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
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
Ella Minnow Pea (LMNOP) is a broad satire, which is conspicuous in loudly broadcasting its themes of the consequences of unfettered political power dictated to a country (fascism) with its resulting creeping loss of rights which become the new normal, as well as neighbourly reporting and ridiculously contrived punishable offences to incite fear and maintain absolute power. But once you have that nicely established, you can get down to the idiosyncratic local tale on the island of Nollop, named a ...more
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
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
Nov 10, 2007 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
Althea Ann
A post-apocalyptic book club selection (which is technically not post-apocalyptic, but we are flexible like that).

'Ella Minnow Pea' posits an independent island nation somewhere off the coast of North Carolina. The villagers there have opted for a simple life, embracing old-fashioned, small-town values. They're governed by a town council, and revere the (fictional) historical character of Nevin Nollop, supposedly the originator of the pangrammatic phrase, "The quick brown fox jumps over the laz
May 07, 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 24, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 06, 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
Mar 15, 2010 ·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.
Sep 26, 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
Sep 24, 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 02, 2007 Kim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 24, 2014 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.
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
Sep 17, 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!)

Apr 14, 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
Mar 30, 2011 Sesana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 20, 2007 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book came up in my timeline and I realized that I had rated but never reviewed it. What is there to say? Every time I come across my copy, or see it mentioned anywhere, I smile. It just makes me happy. As someone who loves books, and words in general, this book is a jewel.
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
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
Aug 01, 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!
Marc Nash
May 30, 2017 Marc Nash rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deliciously subversive, a book about tyranny and censorship, a bit like Orwell's "Animal Farm", but leaner and cleaner and funnier.

A lipogram, that is a book written with a conscious omission of certain letters. Unlike in Georges Perec's infamous "A Void" which doesn't contain a single letter 'e', the reason for omitting letters in Dunn's book is absolutely embedded in the story. As letters drop off from a cenotaph memorial to the man who invented the pangram "The quick brown fox jumps over the
Jan 28, 2009 Kat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Around the Year i...: Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn 9 75 Mar 01, 2017 06:54PM  
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As the tiles fall, write sentences without using the illegal letter. 71 51 May 28, 2014 06:38PM  
  • Extravagance
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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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“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.” 9 likes
“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
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