Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Reading in 2014 - Ella Minnow Pea

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea
'Nevin Nollop left the islanders of Nollop with the treasured legacy of his pangram the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. But as the letters begin to crumble on the monumental inscription, the island's council forbids the use of the lost letters and silence threatens Ella and her family.'

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a clever little book. While it is a short and easy read it does require a bit of effort on the part of the  reader.

It is written as a series of letters between the various characters as their isolated community crumbles. The characters are forbidden from using certain letters of the alphabet and as each letter is removed in turn from the language, it also disappears from the pages of the book. I found myself scanning the pages looking for forbidden text on many occasions - I am in awe of the author for putting this tale together and sticking to the self-imposed rules.

While it seems to be a fairly outlandish and far-fetched tale, I found it to be an interesting depiction of how a thriving, democratic society can loose their freedom seemingly overnight. The rapid demise of Nollop actually occurs after a long period in which social apathy, neglect, greed and corruption have eroded social infrastructure, the rights of the individual and the strength of the community and a position of absolute, uncontested power has been achieved by the elected Council. Throw in an unhealthy dose of Nollopian fundamentalism and the stage has been set for simple event to tip the society into totalitarian tyranny.

There are plenty of places in the world today where people face torture, exile or execution for transgressions that seem just as trivial to us as the accidental use of a forbidden letter of the alphabet. These are the people that are seeking refuge on our shores and across the globe. Unfortunately the only place where a 32-letter phrase will bring peace is Nollop - in the pages of this book.