What are your favourite first sentences from books? Is there a book that you liked specially because of its first sentence? Or a book, perhaps that you didn’t like but still remember simply because of the first line?
Shamefully, there are none that I can recall off the top of my head! I have definitely been struck by first lines, though, and I especially like the way the first line can sweep you up into the book. Even better, when you look back, sometimes they symbolize the point of the entire book. Of course, right now I’m thinking of Pride and Prejudice:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
And really, this line alone can show us how brilliant Jane Austen was. For a single sentence, it has so many undertones, and its implications are reflected throughout Pride and Prejudice. In my last literature class, probably ever, near the end of the course my professor handed out a paper with all the first lines from the books we’ve read. There was a steady progression there, from Joyce (Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man has a good one, much as I dislike that book personally) to Woolf to Beckett and on. One little sentence can say a lot!
I think most of what I like about first lines is that, even when I don’t remember them, they conjure up an entire literary world when I hear them again. My last review was of The Hours by Michael Cunningham, which links to Mrs. Dalloway, and that latter book has one of my favorites:
“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”
Not for any particular reason, other than that it embodies the feel of the book. Sometimes, I don’t need to reread or hear more than that just to remember what a wonderful book I read and to relive the story.