BTT: Famous First Lines

Booking Through Thursday

Suggested by: Nithin

Here’s another idea about memorable first lines from books.

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?

A good opening line can make or break a book. I once was part of a writing group where writers obsessed over their first lines. An agent or a publisher could be swayed by that first line or bored to death. Whether you became a famous novelist depended on that opening. That's a lot of pressure!

Of course, some writer's make it look easy. There are quite a few that stick in my mind:

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.

Lolita is a disturbing novel but the beauty of the words is revealed in the first line. The whole novel plays with the English language in this way.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

Daphne DuMaurier's first line in Rebecca already sets us up for a gothic tale. She dreams of a mysterious place called Manderley. What is this place and why does she dream of it? It's short but makes you want to read more.

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

Universally acknowledged as the most recognizable first line of Jane Austen's novels (Pride and Prejudice), it gives us an idea of what a single man in possession of a good fortune has to face when he enters the novel. He's toast, Baby!

First lines must make an impression on me, because not only are these my favorite first lines but also some of my favorite books.


  1. Were these all from memory? The Jane Austen one I was like, Oh yeah! But the others... I'm impressed if you did this post without cheating (like me). :-)

  2. I've gotten into the habit of reading the first couple of paragraphs of a book I am considering adding to my TBR collection just to see if it's something I will be able to read.

  3. Trish- Rebecca I remembered word for word, the other two I remembered most of but had to look up. They have stuck with me though.

  4. Great post! I love opening a book and seeing how it will be. First lines are so important. Really set the tone.

  5. Yes, those are some of my favorites, too - from some of my favorite books. You're right - some authors are just great at writing lines that grab you.

  6. "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself."

    "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

  7. Ah...the opening line from Pride and Prejudice! I wish I've wrote that down on my post!

  8. Oh, Lolita is great! I'd forgotten how good those first few lines are. Thanks for reminding me.

  9. Those are great lines. I can't believe I forgot Rebecca, it is one of my faves.

    Here's my BTT post

  10. Ohh I forgot about how great the Lolita entrance is. I could always picture someone mouthing the name over and over just to hear the cadence of it - lo lee ta!

  11. I had forgotten the beginning of Rebea. Thanks for posting it!

    Here is my BTT post

  12. I agree that my favorite first lines are often part of books I love. Maybe those are the ones I remember the most.

  13. Aha! A great excuse to post a Colin Firth photo! I'm always looking for those opportunities. :)


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