A blog by Nikki Dudley about the gaps in everyday life...


Friday, 30 April 2010

Favourite first lines

As a reader, what I really love is a great first line, or more accurately, a good first few lines. It isn't always done. For example, one of my favourite books, The Great Gatsby, doesn't have a particularly good first line at all. It is:

'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."'

Not groundbreaking by any means. Based solely on that small extract, it doesn't seem like a book I would want to delve into but luckily, the first chapter sees to that! A bit of a cliche, but the image of Gatsby reaching out for that light in the distance is still amazing in my opinion.

But back to it!

Here is a list of some of my favourite first lines, and I've tried to also choose ones which I think have followed it up with a brilliant rest of the novel too! I'm not going to say where they are from. Perhaps some of you can guess? Maybe I should get a little prize for the person who gets most of them right, without cheating!

1) It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.

2) The beginning is simple to mark.

3) If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

4) The gunman is useless.I know it. He knows it. The whole bank knows it.

5) If I had smoked, it might have been easier.

6) On November 11, 1997, Veronika decided that the moment to kill herself had-at last!-arrived.

7) It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.

8) One day in August a man disappeared.

9) When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along to and FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini’s “The Thieving Magpie,” which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta.

10) 124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom.

11) I am telling you this just the way it went/ with all the details I remember as they were,/ and including the parts I'm not sure about.

So there are just a few first lines I like. Some of them are fairly simple but it's just the ones that may me want to read on and find out what they're talking about or ones that have a real impact as they are so sharp, or funny, or ambiguous.

Right, so are there any guesses? I'll post the answers in a few days time, for all those who are curious!

N x

ps: I will have to publish comments after the list is up so people can't see any potential right answers!


  1. Oh dear - I did really badly(!)

    #1 is Catch 22, I think.
    #3 I recall reading but have no idea what it was

    And the rest...? Now I'm curious!

  2. 1. Catch22
    2.Enduring Love
    3.Catcher in the Rye
    4.i am the messenger
    6. veronika soemthing kills herself?
    7.Glass city
    11.make lemonade

  3. Some really interesting lines here, many that I had't heard before. I got 4 and a half, I think.

    9 was infuriating - I knew who it was, but couldn't for the life of me remember which book it was.

    4 and 7 are particularly fantastic. Capture the attention instantly and make me want to read them (which reminds me that I still need to read 7! Been meaning to on your recommendation for ages.)

    My favourite first line is:
    "It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love."
    Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez



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