Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Great Opening Lines

Just stumbled on this
site which gives the 100 Best First Lines of Novels.  Remind yourself of your favourites (a cause to be a little smug too?) and discover other books that look incredibly tempting.  Here are some of my favourites, not that I have necessarily read them all, I confess.

"Call me Ishmael."  Moby-Dick by Herman Melville 1851

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 1813

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (trans.Constance Garnett) 1877

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." 1984 by George Orwell 1949

"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." David Copperfield by Charles Dickens 1850

"One summer afternoon Mrs. Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue to find that she, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his spare time but still had assets numerous and tangled enough to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary." The Crying Lot of 49 by Thomas Pynchon 1966

"Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu." Waiting by Ha Jin 1999

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." Neuromancer by William Gibson 1984

"For a long time, I went to bed early." Swann's Way by Marcel Proust (trans.Lydia Davis) 1913

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C S Lewis 1952

"Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes' chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression." At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien 1939

"It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York."  The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath 1963

"If I am out of my mind, it's all right with me, thought Moses Herzog."  Herzog by Saul Bellow 1964
'“Take my camel, dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.' The Towers of Trebizon by Rose Macaulay 1956

"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."  The Go-Between by L P Hartley 1953

"He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad."  Scaramouche by Raphael Sabatini 1921

I am grateful to the editors of American Book Review for all these gems   
found at http://www.infoplease.com


  1. We like: "It was the afternoon of my eightieth birthday and I was in bed with my catamite when the Archbishop came to call"

    Anthony Burgess: Earthly Powers (from memory so may not be entirely accurate)

    Louis and BiBi

  2. That's one of my favourites too. Sadly it's not in this list.


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