Carrying on with the theme of books that I am over a decade late in discovering (see HERE), this one knocked my socks off. Ella Minnow Pea (A Novel in Letters) by Mark Dunn is a cleverly written, light-hearted, yet strangely moving story of a girl’s fight for freedom of expression on a fictional island where letters are slowly being banned as they drop off a statue.
“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”
Like vocabulary crack for a linguistic junkie, I defy you to read this book and not learn a new word or several, not to mention the delicious challenge of trying to best Nollop’s own pangram along with the cast of characters. Dunn’s invented words are perhaps my favourite part of the book—such delights as:
“I am so fearful, Ella, as to where this all may lead. A silly little letter, to be sure, but I believe its theft represents something quite large and oh so frighteningly ominous. For it stands to rob us of the freedom to communicate without any manner of fetter or harness.”
With humour that belies the depth of the underlying warning message of this novel, Dunn weaves a clever and thought-provoking commentary on censorship, freedom of expression, and tyranny. His ingenuity as letters are stricken from the alphabet is astounding. The resulting novel is a tribute to the English language.
“In the disquieting quiet, we wonder and worry, yet try to carry on some semblance of normal life. You were right about the fallout from this most absurd law. Not only does it cripple communication between islanders, it builds rock walls between hearts.”
Ella Minnow Pea is, at its core, a cautionary tale of the atrocities perpetrated when lines become blurred between government and dictatorship fueled by religious fervour, the absurd becomes law, and logic is drowned out by misguided zeal.
“Today we queried, questioned, and inquired. Promise me that come tomorrow, we will not stop asking why.”
I thoroughly and wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone with a love of words.