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Listening to the Silence

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Ella Minnow Pea

Ella Minnow Pea - Mark Dunn Off the coast of South Carolina, lies the tiny island nation of Nollop. Named for Nevin Nollop, author of the famed phrase, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," life on the island is idyllic, if a bit technologically backward. When the letter Z falls off the statue dedicated to Nollop, the island is thrown into a tizzy. After several days of closed conference debates, The Council emerges with a decree that the letter Z must be removed from the lexicon and there are serious consequences, culminating in expulsion, for failure to adhere to the edict. As letters continue to fall, communication becomes ever more difficult and the population of the island is decimated, either through voluntary emigration or involuntary banishment. It is left up to a resilient I want few, Ella Minnow Pea among them to find a workable solution.

Told through a series of letters, mostly those of Ella Minnow Pea and her cousin Tassie, this novel is an amusing account of the absurdities of totalitarianism but also a love letter to the beauty of language and wordcraft. I really was hoping to love this novel more than I did, but while the ever more creative uses of language to avoid the use of certain letters was masterfully done, I only ended up liking the novel. Perhaps it was due to the epistolary style, but the characters all felt a bit flat. I also wish it had been a bit longer so that I could have more fully enjoyed the the wordplay. That said I would still recommend this novel to lovers of language as clearly it is a well-liked book amongst the majority of its readers.