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Best first sentences of novels... (1 Viewer)

Dancer Preston

Senior Member
I was just reading The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006 which has a section called: "Best American First Sentences of Novels of 2005." And I was wondering, what do you think is the best opening line you've ever read in a novel?

My favorite--and the only one I can quote--is from Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice:

"It is a universally acknowledged truth, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

I loves it!


Senior Member
'Call me Ishmael.'

- Moby Dick, Herman Melville

'When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.'

- The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka


Senior Member
"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

The Gunslinger, Stephen King


"Even before the events in the supermarket, Jim Ironheart should have known trouble was coming."
-Cold Fire, Dean Koontz
I've got two.

"'He's a Mad Scientist and I'm his Beautiful Daughter.'"
-The Number of the Beast, Robert A. Heinlein

This one's actually two sentences, but it's good, anyway.

"The story so far: In the beginning, the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."
-The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Douglass Adams


Senior Member
"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold."
- Fear and Loathing In Los Vegas, Hunter S Thompson

"My mother is a virgin. (Trust me.)"
- Emotionally Wierd, Kate Atkinson
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WF Veterans
Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.

"Gone with the Wind" - Margaret Mitchell.


WF Veterans
"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

"She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita."

Nabokov is always most beautiful.


"It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me."

Anthony Burgess, Earthly Powers


Senior Member
"The sky was the colour of television tuned to a dead channel"
- William Gibson, Neuromancer

"It was a bright, cold day of April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
- George Orwell, 1984

"I can count my overdoses on one hand:"
- Craig Clevenger, The Contortionist's Handbook

"If you're going to read this, don't bother."
- Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

"The bells of St Mark's were ringing changes up on the mountain when Bud skated over to the mod parlour to get upgrade his skull gun."
- Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age

"I was in my room, reading a book"
- Iain Banks, Whit

"It was the day my grandmother exploded"
- Iain Banks, The Crow Road

"Two days ago I decided to kill myself. [...Last night, I changed my mind and decided to stay alive. Everything that follows is...just try to explain]"
- Iain Banks, Espedair Street

And Iain Banks' 'The Business' has the funniest first three pages. About teeth. And the best opening dialogue, from his vicious and brilliant 'Use of Weapons':

"Tell me, what is happiness?"
"Happiness? Happiness is to wake up on a bright spring morning, after an exhausting first night spent with a beautiful ... passionate ... multi-murderess."
"...Shit, is that all?"

And the very worst:
"Meteorites fell through the night sky like a gentle sleet of icefire, their sharp scintillations slashing ebony overload streaks across the image Gregor Mandel's photon amp was feeding into his optical nerves."
- Peter F Hamilton, Mindstar Rising


Senior Member
"Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm, as the Tarleton twins were."
--Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell


Senior Member
"It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression "As pretty as an airport."
Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul; By Douglas Adams.


Senior Member
It was starting to end, after what seemed most of eternity to me. [I attempted to wriggle my toes, succeeded. I was sprawled there in a hospital bed and my legs were done up in plaster casts, but they were still mine.]
-Roger Zelazny, Nine Princes in Amber.
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Senior Member
"They say the fearsome things don't always work well. It takes three or four chops to sever the head. Sometimes the poor wretches scream horribly, for a full minute, before their agony is ended with a single massive blow."
-Carolly Erickson, The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette.

"I never talk about her except when I'm drinking."
-edited by Denise Little, Hags, Sirens, & Other Bad Girls of Fantasy.

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."
-C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader


Senior Member
Dancer Preston said:
My favorite--and the only one I can quote--is from Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice:

"It is a universally acknowledged truth, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

I despise this opening line more than any others.

G. Palmer

Senior Member
I always enjoyed the Ian Fleming's openings, especially the blunter ones.

"The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning" - Casino Royale, Ian Fleming

"It was one of those Septembers when it seemed that the summer would never end" - On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Ian Fleming

"The naked man who lay splayed out on his face beside the swimming pool might have been dead" - From Russia With Love, Ian Fleming

"Punctually at six o'clock the sun set with a last yellow flash behind the Blue Mountains, a wave of violet shadow poured down Richmond Road, and the crickets and the tree frogs in the fine gardens began to zing and tinkle" - Doctor No, Ian Fleming

"The two eyes behind the wide black rubber goggles were as cold as flint" - From A View To A Kill, Ian Fleming

"I was running away." - The Spy Who Loved Me, Ian Fleming

"The two thirty-eights roared simultaneously" - Moonraker, Ian Fleming


Senior Member
I've always liked the opening sentence to J.K. Rowling's 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.' I was never sure why. Call me crazy, but I can even recite it by memory, I was so obsessed (lol).

'The villagers of Little Hangleton still called it "the Riddle House", even though it had been many years since the Riddle family had lived there.'

Ok, I have to admit that after four years since I last read that first sentence, it's kind of lost it's magic (lol). Well, that's my bad example.:roll: Guess I'll have to make up for it with a better one later, but that's going to require a lot of searching. So don't expect this brilliant example anytime soon.


Senior Member
"It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea."

Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve.