Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ella Minnow Pea and A Secret Kept

Two of my February readings, both very different from each other!  I received Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn as one of several books from my wonderful son and daughter-in-law for Mother's Day.  I didn't get to it until a couple of weeks ago.  It is a quick, easy and funny read.  First of all, I am sure that you have caught the meaning of the name of the book already...if not, say it out loud and you will get it.  It's cute.  And perfect for this story!  The book is subtitled "a progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable".  What does that mean?  Well, "lipogrammatic" is defined as:

Lip`o`gram`mat´ic    (lĭp`ô`grăm`măt´ĭk)
a.1.Omitting a letter; composed of words not having a certain letter or letters; as, lipogrammatic writings.

Epistolary is defined as:

e·pis·to·lar·y  (-pst-lr)
1. Of or associated with letters or the writing of letters.
2. Being in the form of a letter: epistolary exchanges.
3. Carried on by or composed of letters: an epistolary friendship.

Does that help?

The story is told in a series of letters written to the various characters of the book, which helped make the book a quick read.

Ella Minnow Pea is a young girl who lives on the fictional island of Nollop, off the coast of South Carolina.  The island is named for Nevin Nollop, who wrote the panagram "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog". (quick note: I could not find if Nevin was a real person or not).  Anyway, the citizens of Nollop are very committed to written communication and are devoted followers of their founder, Mr. Nollop.  So when a young girl discovers one day that the letter Z has fallen off of the Nollop monument, the town goes into a sort of panic mode, with the town council meeting to decided what they should do.  It is agreed that the loss of the letter Z must be a message from the deceased Mr. Nollop and so the council decrees that the letter Z can no longer by used by the town people, either in speech or written communication, including any reading that might have the letter Z in it.  So the good people of Nollop begin to adjust to a world without Z.  Then one day, the letter Q falls off of the monument.  And so it goes...letters start falling off, one at a time.  And each time it is decreed that the fallen letter can no longer be used.  And to make things even more difficult, a new law is passed that after three uses of a discarded letter, the citizen is banned from the island.

As you can imagine, things get quite difficult for the town people trying to communicate, read, sing, etc.  Ducks are not allowed on the island anymore because they make a sound with the Q.  When the letter D is discovered fallen, the past tense disappears.  As you can imagine, by the end of the book, the letters written are quite difficult to make out!  Thankfully, a solution is found, but I won't tell you the ending!

This was a fun book, and had the feeling of a classic to me.  I wonder how many of you out there have read it???

A Secret Kept was written by Tatiana DeRosnay, who also wrote Sarah's Key.  I loved Sarah's Key, so I was excited to finally pick up the author's latest book.  The story in A Secret Kept did not affect me nearly as much as Sarah's Key did, so I was a bit disappointed in the book.  It begins with two adult siblings (Antoine and Melanie) returning to a seaside village for a birthday weekend trip.  The village is where they used to vacation as children with their parents, but they had not been there for over thirty years when their mother had died, and life changed for them.  While there, Melanie remembered something quite disturbing about the last time they had been there with their parents.  As they were driving home after their weekend, Melanie was driving and started to tell Antoine what she had remembered.  Before she was able to tell him, she lost control of the car and was badly injured.  While Melanie is recovering, she eventually begins to remember what she wanted to tell Antoine about her memory that involved their mother.  After she tells him, Antoine begins to seek out others who might be able to help him understand Melanie's memory and get to the truth about his mother.  It was rather interesting and did keep my attention to finish the book.  I half expected to learn that the mother was still alive, but that wasn't the case.

Do I recommend it?  Yes, it was an easy, interesting read, so if you are looking for something light to read, it would do.  But don't expect anything like Sarah's Key.  It definitely did not live up to that expectation.

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