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  • New beginnings – favourite opening lines

    Posted by Emily Mitchell on 5 September 2023 at 16:23

    With the start of our Friday Night Live competition and the recent final of our First 500 Novel Competition, I definitely have openings on the brain! So I wanted to ask what are everyone’s favourite opening lines beyond the ones you have written? What makes a good opening for you?

    One of my all time favourite books, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, opens with the famous words: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’. I have always loved how atmospheric, enticing and mysterious these few words are and how they pull you into this Gothic, dreamlike haze.

    Tracey Brown replied 5 months ago 10 Members · 10 Replies
  • 10 Replies
  • Stephanie Vendryes

    5 September 2023 at 16:30

    That’s a lovely first line! I’ll have a think about my favourite first line but your post made me think of a book that is entirely written in first chapters: “I, The Divine” by Rabih Alameddine. So, same protagonist, unique story arc, consistent timeline, but each chapter is like an attempt to start the story again, and the result is amazing. And you also end up with a book filled with nice opening lines!

    • Tracey Brown

      25 September 2023 at 17:57

      Ooh, interesting. Will have to check that one out. Thanks.

  • Katie Day

    5 September 2023 at 16:31

    I recently read a brilliantly gripping book that began with the line:

    ‘You are a fingerprint.’

    (It’s Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka)

    • Anna Burtt

      6 September 2023 at 08:42

      I LOVED this book!

      • Katie Day

        6 September 2023 at 09:48

        Isn’t it so good?! I picked it up by chance and was totally floored.

  • Verity Hicks

    5 September 2023 at 17:22

    A favourite of mine is from Madeleine Miller’s Circe:

    “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.”

  • Rose Blakeney

    6 September 2023 at 14:34

    One of my favourite openings is from Mrs Gaskell’s “Cranford”:

    In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses, above a certain rent, are women.

    You know straight away that you’re in for a light-hearted ride with the redoubtable women of the town.

  • Libby Leyland

    6 September 2023 at 15:18

    I’ve gone overboard because I don’t have a favourite, only a long list of them 🙂 I realised afterwards that they’re all first-person narrators.


    “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.” Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte


    Not quite the opening but three lines in:

    “Who was Sappho? No one knew, but she had an island.” After Sappho, Selby Wynne Schwartz


    “An incensed blond twink said, ‘Excuse me, miss! Where do you think you’re going? This is a members-only club.’” LOTE, Shola von Reinhold


    “Later on we often had a book with us. Later on. When we were a bit bigger at last though still nowhere near as big as the rest of them we brought over books with us. Oh loads of books. And sat with them there in the grass by the tree.” Checkout-19, Claire-Louise Bennett


    “I read about it in the paper, in the subway, on my way to work. I read it, and I couldn’t believe it, and I read it again. Then perhaps I just stared at it, at the newsprint spelling out his name, spelling out the story. I stared at it in the swinging lights of the subway car, and in the faces and bodies of the people, and in my own face, trapped in the darkness which roared outside.” ‘Sonny’s Blues’, short story by James Baldwin


    “When the trained stopped I stumbled out, nudging and kicking the kitbag before me. Back down the platform someone was calling despairingly, ‘Oxgodby … Oxgodby.’ No-one offered a hand so I climbed back into the compartment, stumbling over ankles and feet to get at the fish-bass (on the rack) and my folding camp-bed (under the seat). If this was a fair sample of northerners, then this was enemy country so I wasn’t too careful where I put my boots. I heard one chap draw in his breath and another grunt: neither spoke.” A Month in the Country, J L Carr

  • Tony

    12 September 2023 at 04:57

    From one of my favorite books …

    “By nightfall the headlines would be reporting devastation.”

    Shirley Hazzard, The Transit of Venus

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 2 weeks ago by  Tony Samara.
  • Richard Strong

    25 September 2023 at 15:29

    The Ford, could not have picked a more inappropiate moment to demonstrate its hitherto unknown prowess.