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Discussion Question: Favorite Opening Line

The American Book Review has compiled a list of the 100 Best First Lines from Novels.  Looking over the list, I saw my favorite opening line right near the top of the list:

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

Continuing down the list, I saw several other memorable lines:

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.
—Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

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

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
—Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
—Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)
Although everyone knows this line, I have yet to meet anyone who has actually read the book.

Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing.
—Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (1605; trans. Edith Grossman)

Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.
—Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

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

The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up.
—G. K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

Most really pretty girls have pretty ugly feet, and so does Mindy Metalman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden.
—David Foster Wallace, The Broom of the System (1987)

What's your favorite first line from a novel?


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 10th, 2010 11:04 pm (UTC)
At the risk of sounding like a Neil Gaiman fan boy, I think "There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife" has got to be one of the best openers of all time. Especially since the layout of the book sort of maximized its effect. It's the kind of opening line that every book, or piece of advice you can find on writing, says you should strive for.
Oct. 11th, 2010 02:01 am (UTC)
The Graveyard Book was such a great book.
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 11th, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again," actually.

It's my personal favorite by such a long way. ^_^
Oct. 12th, 2010 10:21 pm (UTC)
Ooh, two snaps for Dick Francis! I had forgotten about that one.
Oct. 11th, 2010 02:17 am (UTC)
"I woke up in bed with a man and a cat."

To Sail Beyond the Sunset, by Robert Heinlein.

I am not sure why it is my favorite, except that it seems like a good way to wake up--so long as the man isn't dead!
Oct. 11th, 2010 06:16 am (UTC)
"The wind came over the bay like a living thing"

Hal Clement, Mission of Gravity (probaby not verbatim)
Oct. 12th, 2010 10:25 pm (UTC)
I love this one:

"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink."
-—Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle (1948)
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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