Saturday, March 21, 2009

Question of the Day #136

Last night, I attended a writer's dinner at my friend Nancy's house. When each season changes, she gathers all her writer friends around her long dining room table and we enjoy comfort food, wine and writing talk.

Last night, among other things, like Cowgirl Camp and Rainbow Parties, we discussed great novel openings. We read the first sentence from Mario Puzzo's The Godfather, "Amergio Bonsera sat in New York Criminal Court number three and waited for justice; vengeance on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter, who had tried to dishonor her."

Frankly, the majority of us didn't feel compelled to move on.

Then we read from John Irving's, The World According to Garp. "Garp's mother, Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston in 1942 for wounding a man in a movie theater."

That got me. I wanted to know how she wounded him. And why.

We talked about what makes a great opening and I thought about my favorite. In YA circles, it's a little bit of a no-brainer, the example that's often given. But I know that in the bookstore, I read the following opening line and that line only, and then bought the book.

"It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate and a stomachache."

That's from Laurie Halse Anderson's award winning YA novel Speak.

I woke up still thinking about novel openings and since a lot of you are big readers, I'm wondering, what are some of your favorite book openings and why did they grab you?



  1. John Le Carre, The Honourable School Boy: "Afterwards, in the dustry little corners where London's secret servants drink together, there was an argument about where the Dolphin case history should really begin."
    Immediately, I wanted to know what came before (the afterwards).

    Nelson DeMille, Up Country: "Bad things come in threes."
    First, because I firmly believe all things comes in threes; second, I buy every book the man publishes (same as with LeCarre and a few other favorite authors).

    Another interesting question!

  2. LOL! Enjoy how Google ads picked up on Mario Puzzo's "criminal court" and posted an ad to appeal prison for life on my blog today!

  3. One of my favorites is from Their Eyes Were Watching God:

    Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.

  4. Okay, two come to mind:

    I'm going back to high school with George Orwell's, 1984. "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."

    More recently, I was hooked by the opening line of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's, Shadow of the Wind: "I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time."

  5. This is a tough question, Suzanne :)! I will be back, after re-reading some books. O my gosh, I'm getting old...

  6. I don't memorize first lines, but for some reason I know the first (or at least can summarize) of The Outsiders by SE Hinton. I think it was "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie theater..." or something like that. I'm not sure it's a grabber, but it's in my head. Stay gold, Ponyboy.

  7. ""Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. The question of self-pity." Those were the first words I wrote after it happened." - The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion


    "Dear Carrie Bradshaw, You are a fucking liar."
    - Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster (all her books make me laugh out loud)


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