Skip to main content

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.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

My non-book buying year

There is something powerful about starting fresh with a new challenge on the 1st of January. It's like pressing the reset button. And that's what I decided to do and here's what happened when I did.

An idea had popped randomly into my head towards the end of 2017 and it didn't seem to want to let go. I began to wonder - could I do this? It was a real biggie for me.
So what was the challenge?Well, the title of this post, is undoubtedly a spoiler alert, but I was wondering could I make it through the entire year without buying a book?
I know. Please stay calm. I can hear your screams: 'What? No book buying for a whole year.' Yep - that's the challenge I decided on.

Anyone I told, and who knows me well found this hilarious and probably doubted me from the off. When I mentioned it to my husband and some close friends, they just laughed thinking I was joking. And at first maybe I was, but then that little seed of an idea lodged deeper and deeper and I wondered was t…

She and I

"Can you believe it?" she tells me outraged in a transatlantic Skype call. "She asked me if I was a grandmother."

This is the culmination of a call with one of my best and oldest friends. We laugh and make scoffing noises, give a virtual shrug to indicate that this question was obviously not serious. We send each other hugs. We hang up.

And so what of it that someone asked her that question. We both turned 50 this year - within two days of each other in fact and yes, ok I'll admit I'm the oldest. Logically, she and I could both have grandchildren - apart from the fact that we both decided that children were not our bag. It's not unheard of - many 50 year old women do. Yet when I speak with her, I don't think of her as this age. I see and hear her as the 18 year old girl that I came to know when we both started secretarial college - see that in itself dates us. Do secretarial colleges even exist anymore? Can you still learn shorthand, typing and offi…

Something new and something blue

For those of you that know me, you'll already be well aware of my addiction to, sorry I mean love of all things stationery. It can be a notebook (oohhh, yes - I love a new notebook), a particularly beautiful stapler (I have my eye on the one in rose-gold by Kate Spade - we all need something to aspire to) or some fun paperclips that make me smile.  If it falls into the category of stationery, you can pretty much assume I'll like it.

And of course, I love a good stationery shop - large or small, niche or generalist. I can very easily lose an hour or two browsing amongst the loveliness; running my hands over the paper of a journal or testing out pens writing messages on those adorable little pads that are put around the shop especially for people like me. My enthusiasm for these shops and for the temptresses people who carefully curate them was recently captured in my article 'Stationery Encounters' featured in Issue 12 of Breathe magazine. You can read all about it, as…