Top Ten Tuesday: Opening Lines

It’s that time again! Thanks as always to Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl for facilitating TTT.

This week’s topic is opening lines. I’ve always wished I had a better memory for these. I have a good memory for the general plot of most books (though I will admit some thrillers have a tendency to smoosh together), for particular characters, and often particular scenes, but lines from a book don’t always stick that well with me. As such, this topic seemed a bit daunting at first. The more I thought about it, though, particular lines began to rise to the surface of my brain. Here they are below…

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.

I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

What I love about this line is that it’s unexpected. What on earth does she mean, sitting in the sink? I remember the first time I read it having this image of her being crammed up in a tiny modern metal sink, not really having seen the type of sink that was common in the 1920s. Of course, she explain that it’s just her feet that are in the sink in the next sentence, and so begins one of the most evocative descriptive passages in all of English literature.

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

I think I love this line because of what follows. I’m not always great at reading descriptive writing because I really struggle to picture things in my head a lot of the time (I have very poor visual memory) but I don’t think I’ll ever forget the picture of Jane sitting in the window seat, hidden by the curtain, with the rain pounding down outside.

My father got the dog drunk on cherry brandy last night.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4, Sue Townsend

I’m cheating a little with this one because it’s preceded by a list, but I couldn’t not include it. Nothing has ever made me laugh so much as the idea of Adrian’s dad getting the dog drunk and the chaos that follows. Adrian’s narration of his life is probably a bit marmite but I find his sanctimonious self-pity hilarious.

According to the First Scroll of Wen the Eternally Surprised, Wen stepped out of the cave where he had received enlightenment and into the dawning light of the first day of the rest of his life.

Thief of Time, Terry Pratchett

I’m including this because it’s the first line of the first Discworld book I ever read. I had no idea really what was going on but I knew that I loved it. It was perhaps the strangest, most brilliant thing that I had ever read and I knew that from the first line.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien

Has there ever been a more perfect scene setting?

No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.

Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen

This line is so perfect to me because it sets up exactly how you’re supposed to see Catherine. She’s an ordinary girl, a bit silly and naive, and this line sets it all up perfectly so that you know that.

It all started with an apple.

A Sky Painted Gold, Laura Wood

What all started with an apple? This first line is so intriguing, especially as it conjures up images of the Adam and Eve creation story and Snow White. This is one of my favourite recent novels and this first line was literally the first thing that let me know that it was going to be.

Veldt to scrub to fields to farms to these first tumbling houses that rise from the earth.

Perdido Street Station, China Mieville

I love this because it’s just a perfect example of Mieville’s writing. He makes no allowances for his audience in terms of the vocabulary he uses, and that he’ just going to dive into the middle of a plot with no preamble.

Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.

The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater

Here, Stiefvater just states the premise of the novel right up front and immediately introduces the conflict: you know that Blue can kill her true love with a kiss (or at least believes that she can) and that this is going to matter.

Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening Hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.

Northern Lights, Philip Pullman

This one introduces us right in the middle of something happening and I love how it pulls us into that action that’ll continue through the first few chapters. It doesn’t let up on the reader and I especially love that in a book aimed at young people.

14 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Opening Lines

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