Thursday, 17 April 2014

Opening Lines

'It all began the day my grandmother exploded'
Iain Banks

Tell me who wouldn't want to read more following this opening line of Iain Banks' Crow Road? The opening line is where the reader begins their journey and in my experience we want it to be good. We want to be intrigued, we want to know more, we want something that draws us in and makes us continue. An opening line is often my way of selecting a new book. Standing in the bookstore, if I'm not sure what I want, I'll take a look at some new authors and read the opening line of their novels. The line that jumps out at me most - is generally the one I buy and take home with me.

When I started to think about and research opening lines online, the articles I found pretty much quoted the same books which were mostly the Classics. Rather than sharing these with you as I'm sure you can all quite easily take a look online if you're interested, I randomly pulled some books off my own bookcase and thought I would share some opening lines from these with you instead. So in no particular order here they come:

In my old apartment, before there was any furniture, I would sit in the window and stare out at New York City. (The Hottest State - Ethan Hawke)

When I was fifteen, I got hepatitis. (The Reader - Bernhard Schlink)

I've often heard that if you go through something really intense your perception of the world will change entirely. (Amrita - Banana Yoshimoto)

In one of my earliest memories, my mother and I are on the front porch of our rented Carter Avenue house watching two delivery men carry our brand-new television set up the steps. (She's Come Undone - Wally Lamb)

Vietnam, me love you long time. (The Beach - Alex Garland)

Someone had left a guillotine in front of my building. (Nice Girls Finish Last - Sparkle Hayter)

What it begins with, I know finally, is the kernel of meanness in people's hearts. (The Book of Ruth - Jane Hamilton)

I was reading about how to survive the end of the universe when I got a text message from my friend Libby. (Our Tragic Universe - Scarlett Thomas)

While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years. (The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt and the Pulitizer prize for fiction winner)

And I couldn't resist: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. (Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier)

Although I have a particularly soft spot for Rebecca, I think my favourite from the selection above is Scarlett Thomas' opening line in Our Tragic Universe. That line really draws me in.

Do you have any favourite opening lines or any comments about the ones I've shared with you? Has a first line made a particular impact on you? I'd love to hear what you think.

And to end I thought I'd also include three of my own opening lines taken from short stories I've written. I hope you enjoy:

Detective Emily Harris had eaten two mouthfuls of her Spaghetti Carbonara when the call came.

I never expected marriage to be a breeze, but I'd certainly not expected this.

The flurry of whispers back and forth had stopped abruptly as I'd walked into the kitchen.


  1. Some of my all-time favorites:

    "The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao." (The Tao Te Ching)

    "Yesterday, what happened yesterday?" (Fragments of Isabella)

    “Rosy-fingered Eos, mentioned so often in Homer and called Aurora by the Romans, caressed, too, with those fingers the first early morning of the Archipelago.” (Volume II of The GULAG Archipelago)

    "Midway life’s journey I was made aware/That I had strayed into a dark forest,/And the right path appeared not anywhere...." (The Divine Comedy)

  2. Thanks for dropping by. Nice to see you here and thanks for sharing. I particularly liked number 2 and number 4.