All-Time Favourite Opening Sentences

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These are the all-time favourite opening sentences as voted by viewers of To vote for your favourite or favourites, hit the "Vote" button on this page. If your favourite opening sentence is not already listed, please submit it here.

1It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen, 1813
2 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.
Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
3 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--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens, 1859
4If 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.
The Catcher in the Rye
JD Salinger, 1951
5 In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat; it was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort.
The Hobbit
JRR Tolkien, 1937
6 All children, except one, grow up.
Peter Pan
JM Barrie, 1911
7 The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
The Gunslinger
Stephen King, 1982
8Call me Ishmael.
Moby Dick
Herman Melville, 1850
9 There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
CS Lewis, 1952
10 Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy, 1873-7
11 Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1967
12 As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.
The Metamorphosis
Franz Kafka, 1916
13 It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
George Orwell, 1949
14 In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
The Great Gatsby
F Sott Fitzgerald, 1925
15 What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful. And brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. And the Beatles. And me.
Love Story
Erich Segal, 1970
16 The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
The Go-Between
LP Hartley, 1953
17 The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
William Gibson, 1984
18Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
Daphne De Maurier, 1938
19 Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.
A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens, 1843
20 All this happened, more or less.
Slaughterhouse 5
Kurt Vonnegut, 1969
21 It was a pleasure to burn.
Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury, 1953
22 A screaming comes across the sky.
Gravity's Rainbow
Thomas Pynchon, 1973
23Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
David Copperfield
Charles Dickens, 1850
24 For some time I debated over whether I should start these memoirs at the beginning or at the end, that is, whether I should put my birth or my death in the first place.
The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas
Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, 1881 (Tr. Gregory Rabassa, 1997)
25 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.
Earthly Powers
Anthony Burgess, 1980
26 Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing.
Don Quixote
Miguel de Cervantes, 1605 (tr. Edith Grossman)
27 The capacity for friendship is God’s way of apologising for our families.
The Last of the Savages
Jay McInerney, 1996
28 “I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one."
Ender's Game
Orson Scott Card, 1977
29 It was the day my grandmother exploded.
The Crow Road
Iain Banks, 1992
30 We are each the love of someone’s life.
The Confessions of Max Tivoli
Andrew Sean Greer, 2004
31 In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.
A River Runs Through it
Norman Maclean, 1989
32 It was love at first sight.
Joseph Heller, 1961
33 I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.
The Lost Continent
Bill Bryson, 1989
34 Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.
The Stranger
Albert Camus, 1942
35 Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston, 1937
36 If I could tell you one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head.
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint
Brady Udall, 2001
37 Let me say this: bein a idiot is no box of chocolates.
Forrest Gump
Winston Groom, 1986
38 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, 1936
39 Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.
Back When We Were Grownups
Anne Tyler, 2001
40The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.
Samuel Beckett, 1938
41 No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.
War of the Worlds
HG Wells 1898
42 I am a sick man...I am a wicked man. An unattractive man, I think my liver hurts.
Notes from Underground
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1864
43 When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.
The Day of the Triffids
John Wyndham, 1951
44 I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.
I Capture the Castle
Dodie Smith, 1948
45 My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.
The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold, 2002
46 I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.
Out of Africa
Isak Dinesen (Karin Blixen), 1937
47 You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. Relax.
If on a winter's night a traveller
Italo Calvino, 1979
48 It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.
Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel Garcia Marques, 1985
49 Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Woolf, 1925
50 All children become sad in the late afternoon, for they begin to comprehend the passage of time.
The Theory of Clouds
Stephane Audeguy, 2005 (tr. Timothy Bent, 2007)
51 In the last years of the Seventeenth Century there was to be found among the fops and fools of the London coffee-houses one rangy, gangling flitch called Ebenezer Cooke, more ambitious than talented, and yet more talented than prudent, who, like his friends-in-folly, all of whom were supposed to be educating at Oxford or Cambridge, had found the sound of Mother English more fun to game with than her sense to labor over, and so rather than applying himself to the pains of scholarship, had learned the knack of versifying, and ground out quires of couplets after the fashion of the day, afroth with Joves and Jupiters, aclang with jarring rhymes, and string-taut with similes stretched to the snapping-point.
The Sot-Weed Factor
John Barth, 1960
52 To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.
The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck, 1939
53 There are people who can be happy anywhere. I am not one of them.
A Field of Darkness
Cornelia Read, 2006
54 I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.
Ethan Frome
Edith Wharton, 1911
55 We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.
Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas
Hunter S. Thompson, 1971
56 A pickle may not remember getting pickled, but that doesn’t make it a cucumber.
Linda Barnes, 1991
57 On the afternoon it rained frogs, sun perch, and minnows, Sunset discovered she could take a beating good as Three-Fingered Jack.
Sunset and Sawdust
Joe R. Lansdale, 2004
58 When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture of the Rossini's The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Haruki Murakami, 1997
59 I did not realize for a long time that I was dead.
Possessing the Secret of Joy
Alice Walker, 1992
60 My mother didn't try to stab my father until I was six, but she must have shown signs of oddness before that.
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned
Alan Alda, 2006
61 Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.
The Trial
Franz Kafka, 1925 (tr. Breon Mitchell)
62 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.
City of Glass
Paul Auster, 1985
63 I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.
The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini, 2003
64 All day, the colors had been those of dusk, mist moving like a water creature across the great flanks of mountains possessed of ocean shadows and depths.
The Inheritance of Loss
Kiran Desai, 2006
65 First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Ray Bradbury, 1962
66 I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.
Wuthering Heights
Emily Bronte, 1847
67 When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.
The Last Good Kiss
James Crumley, 1978
68 Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.
James Joyce, 1922
69 ‘Twas said better to light a candle than to curse the dark, but in the town of New York in the summer of 1702 one might do both, for the candles were small and the dark was large.
The Queen of Bedlam
Robert McCammon, 2007
70 124 was spiteful.
Toni Morrison, 1987
71 I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as "Claudius the Idiot," or "That Claudius," or "Claudius the Stammerer," or "Clau-Clau-Claudius" or at best as "Poor Uncle Claudius," am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the "golden predicament" from which I have never since become disentangled.
I, Claudius
Robert Graves, 1934
72 There was a pulse, a groove, a palpable crackle in the atmosphere that summer.
The Last Ghost Dancer
Tony Bender, 2010'
73 There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.
Cry the Beloved Country
Alan Paton, 1948
74 This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.
Breakfast of Champions
Kurt Vonnegut, 1973
75 Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
DH Lawrence, 1928
76 That was a fabulous summer. Pérez Prado and his twelve- professor orchestra came to liven up the Carnival dances at the Club Terrazas of Miraflores and the Lawn Tennis of Lima; a national mambo championship was organized in Plaza de Acho, which was a great success in spite of the threat by Cardinal Juan Gualberto Guevara, Archbishop of Lima, to excommunicate all the couples who took part; and my neighborhood, the Barrio Alegre of the Miraflores streets Diego Ferré, Juan Fanning, and Colón, competed in some Olympic games of mini-soccer, cycling, athletics, and swimming with the neighborhood of Calle San Martín, which, of course, we won.
The Bad Girl
Mario Vargas Llosa, 2006 (tr. Edith Grossman, 2007)'
77 Winnie Katz’s lesbian dance class was like God. Mankind never saw it, but you always knew it was there.
When the Cat’s Away
Kinky Friedman, 1988
78 You don’t know about me, without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain, 1884
79 My mother is a virgin. (Trust me.)
Emotionally Weird
Kate Atkinson, 2000
80 Like the brief doomed flare of exploding suns that registers dimly on blind men's eyes, the beginning of the horror passed almost unnoticed; in the shriek of what followed, in fact, was forgotten and perhaps not connected to the horror of it all.
The Exorcist
William Peter Blatty, 1971
81 The priest rarely masturbated during confession. For one thing, it was too cramped, too confining.
David B. Feinberg, 1989
82 My brother Ward was once a famous man.
The Paperboy
Pete Dexter, 1995
83 May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun.
The God of Small Things
Arundhati Roy, 1997
84 It was now lunchtime and they were all sitting under the double green fly of the dining-tent pretending that nothing had happened.
The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber
Ernest Hemingway, 1938
85 Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu.
Ha Jin, 1999
86 I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.
Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison, 1952
87 When a journey begins badly it rarely ends well.
The Floating Island
Jules Verne, 1895
88 The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting.
The Red Badge of Courage
Stephen Crane, 1895
89 Francis Marion Tarwater's uncle had been dead for only half a day when the boy got too drunk to finish digging his grave and a Negro named Buford Munson, who had come to get a jug filled, had to finish it and drag the body from the breakfast table where it was still sitting and bury it in a decent and Christian way, with the sign of its Saviour at the head of the grave and enough dirt on top to keep the dogs from digging it up.
The Violent Bear it Away
Flannery O'Connor, 1960
90 "Take my camel, dear," said my aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.
The Towers of Trebizond
Rose MacAulay, 1956
91 I don't know if my story is good enough to be a tragedy, although a lot of shitty stuff did happen.
Peter Carey, 2006
92 The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.
Harry Potter and the Dirty Hallows
JK Rowling, 2007
93 There is an old legend that somewhere in the world every man has his double.
The Tenth Man
Graham Greene, 1985
94 In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river it was always hungry.
The Famished Road
Ben Okri, 1991
95 “In five years, the penis will be obsolete”, said the salesman.
Steel Beach
John Varley, 1992
96 Storms are sex. They exist alongside and are indifferent to words and description and dissection.
Kevin Patterson, 2007
97For my 90th birthday I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of mad love with an adolescent virgin.
A Memoir of My Sad Whores
Gabriel Garcia Marques, 2004
98 Christmas crept into Pine Cove like a creeping Christmas thing: dragging garland, and sleigh bells, oozing eggnog, reeking of pine, and threatening festive doom like a coldsore under the mistletoe.
The Stupidest Angel: A Tale of Christmas Terror
Christopher Moore, 2004
99 Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.
Cannery Row
John Steinbeck, 1939
100 For a long time, I went to bed early.
Swann's Way
Marcel Proust, 1913 (tr. Lydia Davis)

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