Friday, October 18, 2019

Great first lines from great novels

"All great authors know that a killer first line is almost more important than the first few pages, and authors put in hours of work just to get the right sentence on paper."

- Mary Jane Hathaway
Huff Post, December 18, 2015

Not all great novels have memorable opening lines but most do.  Opening lines are like a fishing rod.  They hook the reader and reel him in.  I have pondered the first words of many great works of literature and they have inspired me, intrigued me and delighted me.  Here are some of the best opening lines from some of my favourite novels.  There are many more, of course, and this is just a small sample.

Some of the Best Opening Lines in Literature

lt 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, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all gong direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

- Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English writer and social critic

From A Tale of Two Cities [1859]

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

- George Orwell (1903-1950), English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic
From Nineteen Eighty-Four {1949}

All happy families are alike but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian writer
From Anna Karenina [1877]

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 (1775-1817), English novelist 
From Pride and Prejudice [1813]

It was a pleasure to burn.

- Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), American writer of science fiction, horror and mystery
From Fahrenheit 451 [1953]

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.  "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."

- F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), American author
From The Great Gatsby [1925]

- Joanne

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