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.

101 The great fish moved silently through the night water, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail.
Peter Benchley, 1974
102 It was the dog who raised me. Oh, the others came and went with their nurturing gestures and concerns, but it was the dog on whose ear I teethed and who watched me through countless hours with the sagacity and hearing of a Ugandan tribal chief.
The Dog, The Family: A Household Tale (from Cutty, One Rock)
August Kleinzahler, 2004
103 It was bitter cold, the air electric with all that had not happened yet.
A Reliable Wife
Robert Goolrick, 2009
104 He—for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it—was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.
Virginia Woolf, 1928
105 They came like a caravan of carnival folk up through the swales of broomstraw and across the hills in the morning sun, the truck rocking and pitching in the ruts and the musicians on chairs in the truckbed teetering and tuning their instruments, the fat man with guitar grinning and gesturing to others in a car behind and bending to give a note to the fiddler who turned a fiddlepeg and listened with a wrinkled face.
Child of God
Cormac McCarthy, 1973
106 One summer afternoon Mrs. Oedipa Maas came home from a Tupperware party whose hostess had put perhaps too much kirsch in the fondue to find that she, Oedipa, had been named executor, or she supposed executrix, of the estate of one Pierce Inverarity, a California real estate mogul who had once lost two million dollars in his spare time but still had assets numerous and tangled enough to make the job of sorting it all out more than honorary.
The Crying of Lot 49
Thomas Pynchon, 1966
107 Lyddie Berry heard the clatter of the geese and knew something was coming--Cousin Betsey, Grandson Nate, another wolf, or, knowing those fool birds, a good gust of wind--but when she heard the door snap hard against the clapboards she discounted all four of them; she whirled with the wind already in her skirts to see the Indian, Sam Cowett, just ducking beneath the lintel.
The Widow’s War
Sally Gunning, 2006
108 The five small craft passed from shadow, emerging with the suddenness of coins thrown into sunlight.
The Risen Empire
Scott Westerfield, 2003
109 I can almost touch the diamond-hard light of stars and the silky slipperiness of leaves, almost taste smoke softer than clouds and sweeter than memory, almost feel God’s breath burn off my sins.
Leave It to Me
Bharati Mukherjee, 1997
110 Only the young have such moments.
The Shadow Line: A Confession
Joseph Conrad, 1917
111 It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.
The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath, 1963
112 There are in this world some very strange individuals whose thoughts are even stranger than they are.
In My Father's Court
Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1966
113 The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call 'out there.'
In Cold Blood
Truman Capote, 1966
114 Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there's a peephole in the door, and my keeper's eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me.
The Tin Drum
Gunter Grass, 1959
115 Early this morning, 1 January 2021, three minutes after midnight, the last human being to be born on earth was killed in a pub brawl in a suburb of Buenos Aires, aged twenty-five years, two months and twelve days.
The Children of Men
PD James, 1992
116 Two things don't happen very often in Hillston, North Carolina. We don't get much snow, and we hardly ever murder one another. Suicide is more our style; we're a polite college town, and our lives are sheltered by old trees.
Uncivil Seasons
Michael Malone, 1983
117 The building was on fire, and it wasn't my fault.
Blood Rites
Jim Butcher, 2004
118 Jack Reacher ordered espresso, double, no peel, no cube, foam cup, no china, and before it arrived at his table he saw a man's life change forever.
The Hard Way
Lee Child, 2006
119 I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.
A Prayer for Owen Meany
John Irving, 1989
120 They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible.
On Chesil Beach
Ian McEwan, 2007
121 He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare which made you think of a charging bull.
Lord Jim
Joseph Conrad, 1900
122 When Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus were kids, their fathers worked together at the Coleman Candy plant and carried the stench of warm chocolate back home with them.
Mystic River
Dennis Lehane, 2001
123 My name is Kathy H. I’m thirty-one years old, and I’ve been a carer now for over eleven years.
Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro, 2005
124 In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.
A Farewell to Arms
Ernest Hemingway, 1929
125 On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide--it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese--the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope.
The Virgin Suicides
Jeffrey Eugenides, 1993
126 “Conquer taste, and you will have conquered the self,” said Jagan to his listener, who asked, “Why conquer the self?” Jagan said, “I do not know, but all our sages advise us so.”
The Vendor of Sweets
RK Narajan, 1967
127 Of the people who live lonely lives, on the veld or elsewhere, few do so of their own free choice.
Jock of the Bushveld
Percy Fitzpatrick, 1907
128 For a man of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well.
JM Coetzee, 1999
129 You never hear about a sportsman losing his sense of smell in a tragic accident, and for good reason; in order for the universe to teach excruciating lessons that we are unable to apply in later life, the sportsman must lose his legs, the philosopher his mind, the painter his eyes, the musician his ears, the chef his tongue.
A Fraction of the Whole
Steve Toltz, 2008
130 Even to a high-flying bird this was a country to be passed over quickly.
The Untamed
Max Brand, 1919
131 What if this young woman, who writes such bad poems, in competition with her husband, whose poems are equally bad, should stretch her remarkably long and well-made legs out before you, so that her skirt slips up to the tops of her stockings?
Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things
Gilbert Sorrentino, 1971
132 The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.
Casino Royale
Ian Fleming, 1953
133 I was the shadow of the waxwing slain / by the false azure of the windowpane; / I was the smudge of ashen fluff -- and I / Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.
Pale Fire
Vladimir Nabokov, 1962
134 Alida Garcia stumbled through the dense winter woods, blood marking her long path, a bright red comet trail against blazing white snow.
Scott Sigler, 2008
135 Besides the neutral expression she wore when she was alone, Mrs. Freeman had two others, forward and reverse, that she used for all her human dealings.
Good Country People (from A Good Man is Hard to Find)
Flannery O’Connor, 1955
136 If I am out of my mind, it's all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.
Saul Bellow, 1964
137Something a little strange, that's what you notice, that she's not a woman like all the others.
Kiss of the Spider Woman
Manuel Puig, 1976
138 Some people watch birds. I watch clouds.
The Morville Hours
Katherine Swift, 2008
139 He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.
The Old Man and the Sea
Ernest Hemingway, 1952
140 Henry’s second novel, written, like his first, under a pen name, had done well.
Beatrice and Virgil
Yann Martel, 2010
141 My desert-island, all-time, top five most memorable split-ups, in chronological order: 1.Alison Ashworth 2.Penny Hardwick 3.Jackie Allen 4.Charlie Nicholson 5.Sarah Kendrew. These were the ones that really hurt.
High Fidelity
Nick Hornby, 1995
142 When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.
The Road
Cormac McCarthy, 2006
143 The gunman is useless.
I Am the Messenger
Markus Zusak, 2002
144 In the rare event that one man must follow two others without being observed, follow them closely from first light to summer dusk, certain conditions are best met.
The Brothers Boswell
Philip Baruth, 2009
145 There are many thoughts in a man’s heart.
The Bubble Bursts (from Tevye's Daughters)
Sholom Aleichem, 1899
146 When Maria de las Nieves Moran crossed from convent school to cloister to become a novice nun, it was to prevent Paquita Aparicio, her beloved childhood companion, from marrying the man both girls called "El Anticristo."
The Divine Husband
Francisco Goldman, 2004
147 There was only one person in the food-stall who knew exactly what that sound was that was rolling in across the plain, along the silver curve of the Irrawaddy, to the western wall of Mandalay's fort.
The Glass Palace
Amitav Ghosh, 2000
148 It's hard to meet nice guys when you sell sex toys for a living.
Nice Girls Finish First
Alesia Holliday, 2005
149 I would like to write down what happened in my grandmother’s house the summer I was eight or nine, but I am not sure if it really did happen.
The Gathering
Anne Enright, 2007
150 They tore at the earth with their entrenching tools and mess-kit lids as the shells burst all around them and in the scattered pine tops overhead.
Remember Ben Clayton
Stephen Harrigan, 2011
151 to wound the autumnal city.
Samuel R. Delany, 1974
152 The voice on the telephone seemed to be sharp and peremptory, but I didn’t hear too well what it said—partly because I was only half awake and partly because I was holding the receiver upside down.
Raymond Chandler, 1958
153 Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love.
The Gargoyle
Andrew Davidson, 2008'
154 The moment one learns English, complications set in.
Felipe Alfau, 1990
155 Unable to restrain myself, I have sat down to record this history of my first steps on life's career, though I could have done as well without it. One thing I know for certain: never again will I sit down to write my autobiography, even if I live to be a hundred. You have to be all too basely in love with yourself to write about yourself without shame. My only excuse is that I'm not writing for the same reason everyone else writes, that is, for the sake of the reader's praises.
The Adolescent
Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1875
156 Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.
A.A. Milne, 1926
157 "To be born again," sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, "first you have to die."
The Satanic Verses
Salman Rushdie, 1988
158 He sneezed four times, always four, like everybody on the maternal side.
The Book of Getting Even
Benjamin Taylor, 2008
159 I grew up on Martha’s Vineyard in a house as big and loud as a parade – the clamor resonated along the entire New England coastline.
Apologize, apologize!
Elizabeth Kelly, 2009
160 "Tom!"
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Mark Twain, 1876
161 That year an ill wind blew over the city and threatened to destroy flowerpots, family fortunes, reputations, true love, and several types of virtue.
William Kennedy, 2002
162 riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.
Finnegans Wake
James Joyce, 1939
163 It was like so, but wasn't.
Galatea 2.2
Richard Powers, 1995
164 Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and wilfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you’ll believe a word of it.
The Somnambulist
Jonathan Barnes, 2007
165 In a sense, I am Jacob Horner.
The End of the Road
John Barth, 1958
166 When I was little, the great mystery to me wasn't how babies were made, but why.
My Sister's Keeper
Jodi Picoult, 2004
167 I am seated in an office, surrounded by heads and bodies.
Infinite Jest
David Foster Wallace, 1996
168 Three greasy brother crows wheel, beak to heel, cutting a circle into the bruised and troubled sky, making fast, dark rings through the thicksome bloats of smoke.
And the Ass Saw the Angel
Nick Cave, 1989
169 Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo...
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
James Joyce, 1916
170 It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
Paul Clifford
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, 1830
171The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up.
The Napoleon of Notting Hill
GK Chesterton, 1904
172 The music-room in the Governor's House at Port Mahon, a tall, handsome, pillared octagon, was filled with the triumphant first movement of Locatelli's C major quartet.
Master and Commander
Patrick O'Brian, 1970
173 In the end she dies and he remains alone, although in truth he was alone some years before her death.
Alejandro Zambra, 2006 (Tr. Carolina De Robertis, 2008)
174 It happened, like all horrible things happen, at the most inconvenient time.
The Tenth Song
Naomi Ragen, 2010
175 Except for her sunglasses, Berry is naked.
House of God
Samuel Shem, 1978
176 For seven days in the spring of 1882 the man called Shalako heard no sound but the wind…
Louis L'Amour, 1962
177 When Dick Gibson was a little boy he was not Dick Gibson.
The Dick Gibson Show
Stanley Elkin, 1971
178 It’s so hard to explain what the dead really want.
Sing Them Home
Stephanie Kallos, 2009
179 Sometime during his restless fifteenth year, Bernie Karp discovered in his parents’ food freezer – a white enameled Kelvinator humming in the corner of the basement rumpus room – an old man frozen in a block of ice.
The Frozen Rabbi
Steve Stern, 2010'
180 Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex's admonition, against Allen's angry assertion: another African amusement . . . anyhow, as all argued, an awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa's antipodal ant annexation.
Alphabetical Africa
Walter Abish, 1974
181 Jake Carter was far from dark-minded, but had inherited a streak of what his mother called “worriment,” along with her conviction that while a body ought not hunt for trouble, nonetheless he should be watchful, for woe walks up and down in the world.
Wayne Caldwell, 2007
182 I will tell you in a few words who I am: lover of the hummingbird that darts to the flower beyond the rotted sill where my feet are propped; lover of bright needlepoint and the bright stitching fingers of humorless old ladies bent to their sweet and infamous designs; lover of parasols made from the same puffy stuff as a young girl's underdrawers; still lover of that small naval boat which somehow survived the distressing years of my life between her decks or in her pilothouse; and also lover of poor dear black Sonny, my mess boy, fellow victim and confidant, and of my wife and child. But most of all, lover of my harmless and sanguine self.
Second Skin
John Hawkes, 1964
183 The day the men disappeared started as a typical Sunday morning in Mariquita: the roosters forgot to announce dawn, the sexton overslept, the church bell didn't summon the faithful to attend the early service, and (as on every Sunday for the past ten years) only one person showed up for six o'clock mass: Doña Victoria viuda de Morales, the Morales widow.
Tales From the Town of Widows & Chronicles From the Land of Men
James Cañón, 2007
184 The day had gone by just as days go by.
Herman Hesse, 1950
185 Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. "Stop!" cried the groaning old man at last, "Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree."
The Making of Americans
Gertrude Stein, 1925
186 The strange thing was, he said, how they screamed every night at midnight.
In Our Time
Ernest Hemingway, 1925
187 In Haddam, summer floats over tree-softened streets like a sweet lotion balm from a careless, languorous god, and the world falls in tune with its own mysterious anthems.
Independence Day
Richard Ford, 1995
188 Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.
The Poisonwood Bible
Barbara Kingsolver, 1998
189 Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.
George Eliot, 1872
190 One fine August day in South Carolina, Agness Crandall stirred raspberries and sugar in her heavy non-stick frying pan and defended her fiancé to the only man she’d ever trusted.
Agnes & the Hitman
Jennifer Cruise and Bob Mayer, 2007
191 The story-- like most of the stories in the history of the world—begins far away from Des Moines, Iowa.
Niagara Falls All Over Again
Elizabeth McCracken, 2001
192 When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbour, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only.
Henry David Thoreau, 1854
193 We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody dropped the girl off the bridge.
Darker Than Amber
John D MacDonald, 1966
194 Helen woke up in the middle of the night wearing someone else's breasts. Not her own insignificant, almost nonexistent bumps, but huge pendulous, full ones.
The Sensualist
Barbara Hodgson, 1998
194 Justice?—You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law.
A Frolic of His Own
William Gaddis, 1994
196 The room he wakes up in has the fraught stink of a phone booth, which in spite of everything evokes escort ads and brings a pang of loss, not for sex but tenderness.
A Day and a Night and a Day
Glen Duncan, 2009
197 They set a slamhound on Turner's trail in New Delhi, slotted it to his pheromones and the color of his hair.
Count Zero
William Gibson, 1986
198 By the time Henry House was four months old, a copy of his picture was being carried in the pocketbooks of seven different women, each of whom called him her son.
The Irresistible Henry House
Lisa Grunwald, 2010
199 On my naming day when I come 12 I gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen.
Riddley Walker
Russell Hoban, 1980
200 Slowly, William Randolph Hearst lowered his vast bear-like body into a handsome Biedermeier chair, all scrolls and lyres and marquetry.
Gore Vidal, 1990

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