The first thing I write would determine whether you would read it further. If it makes an impact on you, you would get along and follow me wherever I take you. And this stands even truer for a book. Ofcourse you sit in making up your mind to read a book and wouldn’t really leave it after reading the first line going “Oh! The first line is no good, no point going ahead” (like you may have done with this blogpost perhaps. No? Still reading? Cool). But a good opening line or should I say an opening idea is something that gives an assurance to the reader that he has picked a good one and that it is going to be a good ride. That said, here is a list of 7 fantastico opening lines in novels that pretty much steal the show at the very beginning-
#7- Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
"Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler's pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die."
The shoddy narrator of ours is messed up and no better line could have begun it better than this. It’s a messed up story anyway so if the author would have started with something purely cosmic, like the latter part of the line, it wouldn’t have prepared the reader for what may come. And so, he chose to mix a shock value to the first line itself. Foreshadowing is seldom so good.
#6- Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
"Who is John Galt"
One question you shouldn’t ask and one question that changed the world. Arguably, the most beloved novel of modern times, Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ got us to care for him from the word go. It’s about the build-up before the final reveal and a good writer always understands that.
#5- The Metamorphosis, Franz kafka
"One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug."
What would your first reaction be to an opening line like that? You would read the first few pages in a hurry just to get to the part where they tell he was dreaming. But you don’t get it and you keep digging. You are called for dinner but you can’t get away from the book, from Gregor Samsa, from the vermin . And by the time you are on the verge of finding a catharsis to this line, the book is over.
#4- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Few opening lines really make a statement as well as prepare you for the story ahead. But none does it better than this one. The book takes you to a world that is always there and stays in it. Jane Austen wrote this line before 1813 and its essence, it seems, has stood the test of time.
#3- Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
"I am living at the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead."
You think it is just an eye-catcher of a line, and as you read a bit ahead you wish that it actually were. You wish Miller comes out of his dreams of Paris but he takes you on a ride you will never forget. And that voice! His lines, much like this, have the style that actually make you read them like he would do. You read happily when he is happy, you are sad when he is sad and when he is dead, you are dead!
#2 A tale of two cities, Charles Dickens
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way"
Possibly, one of the greatest passages in fiction, Dicken’s perfect opener said it all. Maybe he understood those times so well that he was to able to find just the right words to make us gauge his understanding, if not the time itself. It is lines like these that we really read fiction, read books. Because while we may get better stories at other places, we want someone to talk to us and talk this good.
#1- Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
" 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.
I could have gone with just the first line and it would still have beaten all others by a margin. But when it comes to Nabokov and his beloved creation, one just can’t get enough of it. The most stylish novel of all times begins with the most stylish opener. This is how you entice them to go where there is no turning back from.