Monday, October 17, 2011

Review and Book Club Report: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Book: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Genre: Literary Dystopian (wow this is a weird one to genre-ize!)
Rating: A-
For: Book Club
From: the library

Here's a cute little book that I've heard much about and finally read! It's about a small island society that revers the creator of the sentence "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" which uses every letter of the alphabet. One day, their monument to this guy begins to lose its letters, so the council bans the use of those letters, one by one, as they each fall off.

It's a little book that is both a fun experiment in language and a statement on totalitarianism. I enjoyed it mostly for the experiment side of things. I thought what a fun thing to try and do, write a book as slowly one by one the letters disappear. I thought the author did a pretty good job of it too! It was also part of the book's experiment to discover a  new sentence that uses all the letters. Could you do it? It was done several times in this book, and that was quite fun too.

Bottom line: I enjoyed it quite thoroughly.

What the book club thought:

  • An overwhelming message of this book was not only on totalitarianism, but also on organized religion. This was very troublesome and downright maddening to many of the book club members. It got nearly to the point of chucking the book across the room for a few!
  • Some people felt the author made the whole story too convenient. Both, by making up rules that fit his purpose and deciding what letters would go first. We thought it would have been fun had he randomly picked the letters that would get banned. 
  • Some people enjoyed the big crazy words that were used and some people were bugged by them. Some enjoyed the made up words the author came up with, and some not so much. 
  • This book is written in actual letters by several different characters. Many book club members felt there was not enough of a voice developed for each character thus making all those letters sound exactly the same. It was hard to tell who was who as each letter began, which was a bit frustrating.
  • There was much reaction to the gullible-ness of the town people to just do whatever was told of them, and to not fight back at all. But then it was also pointed out that this truly does happen in real life!
  • Many felt there was a contest between Tassie and Ella as to which was truly the main character, and it was wondered if the author had an issue here.
  • We all seemed to enjoy the later parts of the book when everything went phonetic and it was, as someone said, like playing a game of Mad Gab! Some stuff was pretty funny. 
  • Bottom line: I think everyone enjoyed it for the most part, even with the issues.
After the main discussion about the book, and the general talk about other books we've been reading, several of us carried on for a couple of hours more on other book related things. I bet we could have gone on all night! It was especially fun to try and define genres and to try and determine the difference between paranormal and supernatural... or what makes a fantasy "epic" or "dark." Or even the difference between fantasy and science fiction (where the magic comes from I say!) We also continued on with the book banning discussion that was begun on my blog a week or so ago, and gosh... what else did we talk about? All sorts of things it seemed! It was very fun anyway. 

Up next for book club: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I'm blown away by how many members of the book club have not read this one yet. I'm so excited for them! Hopefully I'll manage to get to it for a re-read. 


  1. I've seen this book in passing (mostly caught on the title and cover) but had no idea what it was about. sounds kinda fun.

    I enjoyed your highlighting the discussion, sounds like you have a wonderful book club. will have to revisit this post once I get to this book and read it.


  2. This books has been on my list for ages, since I started watching Gilmore Girls and found it on the list of books Rory reads or mentions in the show. It sounds really good! I'm curious about those sentences using all the letters!

  3. I haven't read Ella Minnow Pea or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but they are both on my ever growing TBR!

    Sounds like you had some great discussion.

  4. I really liked this book. I read it earlier this year and still haven't reviewed it. It is really well done!

  5. I have had this one for awhile and need to get to it! Your review has intrigued me. My book club read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn a year or two ago and I was pleasantly surprised at how much they liked it. I was afraid they would think it as boring!

  6. Ha! No comment from Jenny on this A- review. So funny.

    Great review. I'm glad you were still able to like it, even with all the annoying that the book clubbers brought up. :)

  7. Well, I hope you're not lying about the amount of fun you have when we stay so late. ;) I always feel bad I hope you don't really mind.

  8. L: Yes, it's fun... both the book AND the book club! :)

    Joanna: Oh, Rory talks about this one? I didn't know! Cool!

    Teresa: I hope you get to them both some day!

    Kailan: Yes, I thought so too.

    Reviews: Oh wow, I really hope my book club likes A Tree too.

    Jenni: It's when the book clubbers bring up the stuff! I'm so clueless I never see it.

    Jenny: Seriously, I love it. So please never feel bad!

  9. I thought this one was really fun. Before this I didn't know what an epistolary novel was. How great that your book club is reading A Tree in Brooklyn, I love that book! Last month my book club read Pride & Prejudice and I was so excited. Somehow I was the only one who had read it before.



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