Sunday, 21 July 2013





Did you ever see the same book in three more different covers and, sure enough, my charity shop find is the least attractive one at the top. If you squint at the green one, which was the original hardback, you can just about make out that this is a progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable ...

Which it is. But it's also my best summer read this year.

The quirky cover with the fox encapsulates the story. On an island off the coast of South Carolina - that declared its independence from America in the 19th century - the islanders revere Nevin Nollop, author of the famous pangram The quick brown fox etc etc

(Now don't get sidetracked Googling for Nevin Nollop. I already did. He didn't really exist. He's a fictional character.)

But when the lazy dog's Z falls from Nollop's monument, the island's rulers see this as a sign that Z should be outlawed from all written and spoken language.

Unfortunately, the cement has perished, so other letters soon start tumbling out of the language.

Which is when the lipogrammatic epistolist gets really inventive.

When I saw this on the shelf in the charity shop, I only picked it up because I had a dim and distant memory that it was one of Cornflower's book group choices a couple of years ago. It sounded too whimsical for me, and it wasn't in the library, so I gave it a miss. I was wrong. It's clever, original and anybody who loves word games, Scrabble or crosswords will love it.

9 comments:

elegancemaison said...

Intriguing. I'd never heard of it. Thanks for the review. I shall search it out in my local charity shops (where I buy most of my fiction reading matter).

The comparison of the different covers is also interesting in the different strap-lines. So is it best described as a novel "in" letters or a novel "without" letters? I must say I thought the "in" meant it was a novel comprised of letters as written communication between two or more people. Whereas "without" immediately made me think of letters of the alphabet. Either way the book didn't particularly appeal until you described its premise. As I said above, I'm now intrigued enough to want to read it.

mary said...

Well, progressively lipogrammatic epistolary certainly describes it best - because it's in letters between two people using progressively fewer letters of the alphabet. But I can see why they dropped this strapline because my reaction would also be, 'Wot?'
Hope the charity shop comes up trumps, Elegancemaison. If not, I think it's only 1p on Amazon.

Mac n' Janet said...

Thanks for the review, I'm always on the lookout for interesting sounding books, the little odd one.

mary said...

This one is definitely different, Janet - and very cleverly done.

elegancemaison said...

Mary - I must admit that I ignored the middle book cover because I didn't know what, "progressively lipogrammatic epistolary" meant. I usually would have done a Google search but at the time was more taken with the odd difference I noticed in other two covers.

Cornflower said...

So glad you got to it in the end and loved it - I thought it was great!

mary said...

I should have trusted your judgement in the first place, Karen! You always make interesting choices - and I'm sorry for always lagging behind!

leavesandpages said...

I tried it, but found it just a bit *too* whimsical. It is clever, though. I love crosswords and Scrabble, but just didn't love Ella, Minnow, Pea. Maybe in a different mood?

mary said...

If I remember rightly, several of Cornflower's group would agree with you Leavesandpages. It's a word game rather than a novel.