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Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  31,986 ratings  ·  5,731 reviews
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,* "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island's Council, which has ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 17th 2002 by Anchor (first published October 1st 2001)
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Hadia Nevin Nollop is a character who is credited with creating the phrase "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog", or at least in the book. I'm not s…moreNevin Nollop is a character who is credited with creating the phrase "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog", or at least in the book. I'm not so sure if he's real or not
by my niece (Khadija Noor)(less)

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Average rating 3.88  · 
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Apr 20, 2011 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
Richard Derus
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Cute and clever, Ella Minnow Pea is an epistolary novel with an astounding wordsmith in the author, Mark Dunn. I usually love these sort of books written in letters and memos and such, but it got a little hard going towards the end when the missing letters combined with the phonetically spelled words made me want to tear off my hair shirt.

Let me explain. A tyrannical town council, think "Salem witch trials" town council starts banning letters in the alphabet after they start falling off of a si
(4.5) On my recent rereading I engaged more with the individual characters: Ella and her parents, aunt and cousin; other members of the community; and a few off-island visitors who lead the research into what’s happening with the letters. I was also struck much more by the political satire: freedom of speech is endangered in a repressive society slavishly devoted to a sacred text. Those who continue to use forbidden letters are turned in by their neighbors or enemies and get 1) a warning, 2) a f ...more
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
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
May 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookriot, own, epistolary, 2020
This quirky novel kept coming onto my radar years ago, I picked it up from a bookstore in Hawaii on Oahu. I finally got an opportunity to read it.

The whole premise is set on a made up island off the coast of SC called Nollop, the island has their own government and everything is based on the one sentence Nevin Nollop created using every single letter in the English alphabet. The Quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The letters start falling off and the crazy island deems that it's a sign fro
MJ Nicholls
Apr 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: merkins, oulipians, novels
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
Maria V. Snyder
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was a fun quick read. And I was super impressed by the linguistic skills of the author, avoiding words with certain letters as the story progressed. Although, by the end, I was having a difficult time reading as substitutions were used for forbidden letters. Thankfully that didn't last long. ...more
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-
Althea Ann
Apr 21, 2017 rated it liked it
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
Sep 26, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Clever, totally fun read about an isolated utopian community dedicated to the celebration of the English language. As lettered tiles drop off an old monument in the town square, the governing body interprets it is a supernatural sign that each letter should be removed from all spoken and written language. The verbal acrobatics that ensue is entertaining. This is also a satire of the ludicrous attempts to censure language and ban ideas and the small-minded autocrats that enact such policies.
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters was such a fun book to dive into. Not sure why this was never on my radar but I hope to find more books like it. So much was happening that made me laugh and smile.

Now my family has ALWAYS joked that English is my second language (even though it isn't). All I know is that I was a kid who made up my own pronunciations of words. If I didn't know how to say it.. well, just wait - I would say it in my own way. Of course that led to my family crying from laughing
Jun 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
Shelves: usa
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Dani ❤️ Perspective of a Writer
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Wiebke (1book1review)
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 03, 2020 rated it liked it
As literature this is just okay, but it shines more as satire. And as political satire, it is timely.
Elle (ellexamines)
Ella Minnow Pea follows a town where letters are slowly being banned as they stop from a statue.

It's fun and it's clever. The amount of puns and linguistical jokes in here is awesome. I appreciated visually seeing the prose become sparser. Honestly, I can't imagine writing a book like this, and I'm really impressed by the author's talent.

Don't mistake this for just a simple gimmick; the author also incorporates a message about religion and banning books in here. The town council's fanaticism i
Sep 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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!)

Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library, 2020
Once I started this brilliant little book I found it near impossible to put down.
It’s a novel of letters, all of it is correspondence. It’s also a novel about letters and language, and the language is wonderful and expressive and clever. A real joy to read.
Ella Minnow Pea (say it out loud) lives on the island of Nollop named after Nevin Nollop who came up with the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” using all the alphabet. This sentence is on his statue and then the letter Z
Sep 24, 2010 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
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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

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