A fable that works more as a curious writing exercise than as a satisfying story, Ella Minnow Pea is set in a fictional island community where one-by-one (or should I say letter-by-letter) letters of the alphabet are banned from use. Breaking the rule by using a word containing the forbidden letter(s) leads to flogging, the stocks, and eventually banishment. Told in epistolary form, you can see how working with ewer and fewer letters can get tricky. The book reaches a point where you feel as if you’re reading a foreign language, carefully stumbling over the language like a kid reading your first chapter book.
While I can appreciate Dunn’s intricate set-up and clever subversion of the rules he sets up for his characters (and himself,) I grew tired of the premise before the end. Neither the characters nor their fate, was compelling enough for me to stay invested in the story. [***1/2 out of 5]