I always think that the very opening of a book is important, often impacting the outlook of a reader towards the work as a whole from the very beginning. It’s always interesting to find new, marvellous opening lines – if anyone knows any others, comment below! Here are my very favourites!
“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
I’ve always been a massive fan of Sylvia Plath, and within the first line of reading The Bell Jar, I knew that her prose writing is just as beautiful – yet still slightly disturbing – as her poetry. This first line shows Plath’s amazing talent for creating an atmosphere, leaving the reader both in awe at her talent and feeling slightly uneasy at the image presented in the opening of her only novel, The Bell Jar.
“My name is Odd Thomas, though in this age when fame is the altar at which most people worship, I am not sure why you should care who I am or that I exist.” – Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas
Now it’s no secret that I absolutely love Koontz’s work, but I feel like the opening of his famous Odd Thomas series is just perfect. It sums up the nature of the whole series in one line – quirky, yet with an underlying hate for society – which is why the opening of Odd Thomas is among my favourite openers.
“When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?” – William Shakespeare, Macbeth
This in my opinion, is just one of the most memorable opening lines ever written. It always fascinates me how the witches in Macbeth succeed in dominating the whole play, while only appearing in three relatively short scenes. And this line just sums up the frightening nature of the witches in two simple lines, making it resonate through the play, like any good opening line should do.
“Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky, like a patient etherised upon a table.” – T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
I absolutely love the work of T. S. Eliot, have done since attending a seminar on The Hollow Men while in sixth form, and while I love a lot of his work, it is the image “like a patient etherised upon a table,” that has always reminded me of Eliot’s talent. While a lot of people argue that Eliot is unable to come up with his own images – and while it is true that in The Wasteland he borrows a lot (though not without reason) – these claimers irritate me, as in this one, gloriously unsettling image, Eliot proves his true worth as a poet in his own right.
“Jack Torrance thought: Officious little prick.” – Stephen King, The Shining
I know that I wrote a review that was not too kind on poor old King’s new novel, Finders Keepers, fairly recently, but I can’t deny that I adore The Shining, it being up there among my all-time favourites. And the opening line of this terrifying thriller never fails to make me laugh with its bluntness. King here manages to establish the character of Jack Torrance in one short, memorable sentence, causing it to be among my favourite opening lines of literature.