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.

301A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.
The End of the Affair
Graham Greene, 1951
302 For thousands of years, the Atlantic Ocean has beat against the beach of my childhood, its watery fingers stealing more and more of the soft silted sand, grabbing at the estuaries and creeks of the South Carolina Lowcountry, leaving us with the detritus of old forests, battered dunes, and bleeding loss.
The Memory of Water
Karen White, 2008
303 You would think it would be impossible to find anything new in the world, creatures no man has ever seen before, one-of-a-kind oddities in which nature has taken a backseat to the coursing pulse of the fantastical and the marvelous.
The Museum of Extraordinary Things
Alice Hoffman, 2014
304 The bride and groom had two wedding receptions: the first was in the basement of the Lutheran church right after the ceremony, with punch and cake and coffee and pastel mints. This was for those of the bride's relatives who were stern about alcohol.
The Year We Left Home
Jean Thompson, 2011
305 She was running late, always running late, a failing of hers, she knew it, but then she couldn't find her purse and once she did manage to locate it (underneath her blue corduroy jacket on the coat tree in the front hall), she couldn't find her keys.
Talk Talk
TC Boyle, 2006
306 The letter that would change everything arrived on a Tuesday.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Rachel Joyce, 2012
307 My name is Berl Pickett, Dr. Berl Pickett. But I sign checks and documents “I. B. Pickett,” and this requires some explanation.
Driving on the Rim
Thomas McGuane, 2010
308 Clete Purcel had heard of people who sleep without dreaming, but either because of the era and neighborhood in which he had grown up, or the later experiences that had come to define his life, he could not think of sleep as anything other than an uncontrolled descent into a basement where the gargoyles turned somersaults like circus midgets.
Swan Peak
James Lee Burke, 2008
309 We never had no trouble from Mister Watson, and from what we seen, he never caused none, not amongst his neighbors. All his trouble come to him from the outside.
Shadow Country
Peter Matthiessen, 2008
310 He rolled the cigarette in his lips, liking the taste of the tobacco, squinting his eyes against the glare.
Louis L’Amour, 1953
311 I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.
Water for Elephants
Sara Gruen, 2006
312 Some nights, Corcoran O’Connor dreams his father’s death.
Vermillion Drift
William Kent Krueger, 2010
313 No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.
The Haunting of Hill House
Shirley Jackson, 1959
314 He should have seen it coming.
His life had been one mishap after another. So he should have been prepared for this one.
The Finkler Question
Howard Jacobson, 2010
315 They went on anyway, putting one foot in front of the other, holding their carbines barrel down to keep the water out, trying, in their misery and confusion--and their exhaustion--to remain watchful.
Richard Bausch, 2008
316 I was born with the gift of rain, an ancient soothsayer in an even more ancient temple once told me.
The Gift of Rain
Tan Twan Eng, 2008
317 The story is in the journey, not the destination. Or so the philosophers say. But this is my story, and it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
The Open Door
Elizabeth Maguire 2006, 2008
318 Fear presides over these memories, a perpetual fear.
The Plot Against America
Philip Roth, 2004
319 Lemons. The moonlight tasted like lemons. Kind of sour and felt yellow with points.
Miracle Myx
Dave Diotalevi, 2008
320 My sister called it the “year of secrets,” but when I look back on it now, I’ve come to understand that it was a time not of what was there, but of what wasn’t.
The Sorrows of an American
Siri Hustvedt, 2008
321 On the whole, we're a murderous race.
Dead Beat
Jim Butcher, 2005
322 I named my dead sister Nancy and talked to her in the privacy of my closet for eleven years.
Jane F Kotapish, 2007
323 Lightning first, then the thunder. And in between the two I'm reminded of a secret.
The Invention of Everything Else
Samantha Hunt, 2008
324 In the year 1919, Edgar’s grandfather, who was born with an extra share of whimsy, bought their land and all the buildings on it from a man he’d never met, a man named Schultz, who in turn had walked away from a logging team half a decade earlier after seeing the chains on a fully loaded timber sled let go.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
David Wroblewski, 2008
325 In the year 1896, my great-uncle, one of the first Catholic priests of aboriginal blood, put the call out to his parishioners that they should gather at Saint Joseph’s wearing scapulars and holding missals.
The Plague of Doves
Louise Erdrich, 2008
326 Unemployed at last!
Such Is Life
Joseph Furphy, 1903
327 Summer comes late to Massachusetts. The gray spring is frosty, unhurried: wet snow on the early plantings, a cold lesson for optimistic gardeners, for those who have not learned. Chimneys smoke until Memorial Day. Then, all at once, the ceiling lifts. The sun fires, scorching the muddy ground.
The Condition
Jennifer Haigh, 2008
328 It came to Katharine like a soft shock, like a blow inside the head.
Roxana Robinson, 2008
329 I grew up in the shadows of the Great Sioux War which started here in Minnesota in 1862.
The Night Birds
Thomas Maltman, 2007
330 It was a wet evening in Paris. On the slate roofs of the big boulevards and on the small mansards of the Latin quarter, the rain kept up a ceaseless patter.
Devil May Care
Sebastian Faulks, 2008
331 The vision of a tall-masted ship, at sail on the ocean, came to Deeti on an otherwise ordinary day, but she knew instantly that the apparition was a sign of destiny, for she had never seen such a vessel before, not even in a dream: how could she have, living as she did in northern Bihar, four hundred miles from the coast?
Sea of Poppies
Amitav Ghosh, 2008
332 According to John James Audubon, there was once a species of bird in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Cuvier's kinglet, Regulus cuvieri, or, as Audubon liked to call it, Cuvier's wren.
In Hovering Flight
Joyce Hinnefeld, 2008
333 We lived on the shore of Mirror Lake, and for many years our lives were as calm and transparent as its waters.
Francine Prose, 2008
334 By our grandfather’s cabin, on the high ridge, opposite a slope of buckeye trees, Claire sits on her horse, wrapped in a thick blanket.
Michael Ondaatje, 2007
335 I would like to record here, in this brand-new notebook of twenty-two lines per page, with my new Rollerball pen, the story of my marriage as it unfolds.
Two Marriages
Phillip Lopate, 2008
336 The heat rising up from the tarmac seemed to get trapped between the thick hedges that towered above their heads like battlements.
When Will There Be Good News?
Kate Atkinson, 2008
337 They led the man to a spot at the middle of the field. A soccer field, grass, with mainly dirt around the center where the players spent most of the game.
The Forever War
Dexter Filkins, 2008
338 Standing on one of the balconies of the Mimosa serviced apartments, Tom Brodzinski sucked on the moist filter-tip of his cigarette, and swore to himself it would be his last.
The Butt
Will Self, 2008
339 It happened like this — in many respects an old tale, with nothing original to recommend it.
Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners
Laura Claridge, 2008
340 To whoever is out there, if anyone is out there: Today has been an awful day in a run of awful days as long as life so far.
Matthew Sharpe, 2007
341 He swam one hundred and fifty strokes out to sea and the same number back, as he did each morning, till he found the round pebbles of the shore beneath his feet.
The Painter of Battles
Arturo Perez-Reverte, 2006 (tr. Margaret Sayers Peden, 2007)
342 We were supposed to meet this morning?" asked Dyer, standing in the shaded portico of Headmaster Wolfe's residence, the humid Massachusetts air on him like a quilt.
The Headmaster Ritual
Taylor Antrim, 2007
343 Don't be afraid. My telling can't hurt you in spite of what I have done and I promise to lie quietly in the dark-weeping perhaps or occasionally seeing the blood once more-but I will never again unfold my limbs to rise up and bare teeth. I explain.
A Mercy
Toni Morrison, 2008
344 It was rainy and cold outside, miserable weather, and though I had not left my boardinghouse determined to die, things were now different.
The Whiskey Rebels
David Liss, 2008
345 On a wet summer night, Danny Coughlin, a Boston police officer, fought a four–round bout against another cop, Johnny Green, at Mechanics Hall just outside Copley Square.
The Given Day
Dennis Lehane, 2008
346 Where I grew up, people kept their business to themselves.
The God of War
Marisa Silver, 2008
347 A Turkish heavyweight boxing champion sauntering down a Hamburg street with his mother on his arm can scarcely be blamed for failing to notice that he is being shadowed by a skinny boy in a black coat.
A Most Wanted Man
John le Carre, 2008
348 A sea of mist drifted through the cloud forest, soft, grey, luminescent.
Shards of Honor
Lois McMaster Bujold, 1986
349 There is a cafe on Franklin Street run by a woman I know, a young mother with two small girls who love her fiercely.
The Baker’s Boy
Barry Kitterman, 2008
350 “Home to stay, glory! Yes!” her father said, and her heart sank.
Marilynne Robinson, 2008
351 A man driving a new Chrysler automobile along a dirt road near the North Carolina mountain town of Cressler saw a boy up ahead, dressed in a black suit, white shirt, black tie, with a suitcase and valise by his feet.
The Bible Salesman
Clyde Edgerton, 2008
352 About two and a half months after the well-trained divisions of North Korea, armed by the Soviets and Chinese Communists, crossed the 38th parallel into South Korea on June 25, 1950, and the agonies of the Korean War began, I entered Robert Treat, a small college in downtown Newark named for the city's seventeenth-century founder.
Philip Roth, 2008
353 Secrets are my currency: I deal in them for a living.
Something to Tell You
Hanif Kureishi, 2008
354 We think we know the ones we love.
The Story of a Marriage
Andrew Sean Greer, 2008
355 Ramblers. Daft sods in pink and green hats. It wasn't even cold. They moved down the field swing-swaying like a line of drunks, addled with the air and the land, and the smell of manure. I watched them from up top, their bright heads peeping through the fog.
Out Backward (UK title: God’s Own Country)
Ross Raisin, 2008
356 They had been happy people, thought Eleanor.
Strangers at the Feast
Jennifer Vanderbes, 2010
357 I know I'm not doing well. I have an emotional relationship with a fish-Thomas Strawberry.
Man Gone Down
Michael Thomas, 2007
358 I might as well say, right from the jump: it wasn’t my usual kind of job.
People of the Book
Geraldine Brooks, 2008
359 Today is the two-hundredth anniversary of the final extinction of my One True Love, as close as I can date it.
Saturn's Children
Charles Stross, 2008
360 Anders couldn't get to the bank until just before it closed, so of course the line was endless and he got stuck behind two women whose loud, stupid conversation put him in a murderous temper.
Bullet in the Brain (from Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories)
Tobias Wolff, 2008
361 After her mother's death, Ruma's father retired from the pharmaceutical company where he had worked for many decades and began traveling in Europe, a continent he'd never seen.
Unaccustomed Earth (from Unaccustomed Earth)
Jhumpa Lahiri, 2008
362 The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass.
The Monsters of Templeton
Lauren Groff, 2008
363 It began in the last days of August, when the leaves of the elm in the front yard had curled into crisp brown tubes and fallen away to litter the lawn.
The Shadow Year
Jeffrey Ford, 2008
364 Yonatan can’t see us growing ugly anymore. “We’ll never be as handsome as we are today,” he would always say, and I would ask if that was meant to make us feel better, because it didn’t.
Ron Leshem, 2008 (tr. Evan Fallenberg, 2008)
365 He was insufferable, one of those boy geniuses, all nerve and brain.
The Soul Thief
Charles Baxter, 2008
366 The mayor was found shortly after eleven with his bronze, brooding face lying on the last two slices of a prosciutto and artichoke pizza, his head turned and his wide mouth gaping, as if gulping for a smashed brown bulb of garlic with life's last breath.
Windy City: A Novel of Politics
Scott Simon, 2008
367 Not to disappoint you, but my troubles are nothing-not for an author, at least. Common blots aside, I have none of the usual Big Artillery: I am not penniless, brilliant, or an orphan; have never been to war, suffered starvation or lashed myself to a mast.
So Brave, Young and Handsome
Leif Enger, 2008
368 The Quality of Life Task Force: four sweatshirts in a bogus taxi set up on the corner of Clinton Street alongside the Williamsburg Bridge off-ramp to profile the incoming salmon run: their mantra: Dope, guns, overtime; their motto: Everyone’s got something to lose.
Lush Life
Richard Price, 2008
369 Under the feathery branches of a mesquite tree twenty feet in diameter, among the litter of the tree—small oval leaves, rotting beans, bits of cholla dragged by pack rats trying to build a refuge—lay a diamondback rattlesnake, thick as a grown man’s forearm, coiled in folds, suspended in a state neither asleep nor awake.
Thomas Cobb, 2008
370 I attended Roosevelt (the Teddies, Teds, or Roughriders), a public high school in North Seattle, while my friend John William Barry was a student at Lakeside, our city's version of an East Coast private academy like Phillips Exeter or Deerfield.
The Other
David Guterson, 2008
371 Usually, it was only when one of the local soldiers was home on leave that Anna and her girlfriends ever saw the sorts of young men with whom, in different times, they might have danced.
Skeletons at the Feast
Chris Bohjalian, 2008
372 One dude stood all afternoon at the buffet wearing just his boxers, licking the orange dust off barbecued potato chips.
Chuck Palahniuk, 2008
373 On a grey morning in March 1850, a colored slave named Liz Spocott dreamed of the future. And it was not pleasant.
Song Yet Sung
James McBride, 2008
374 I am not the sort of man who goes to prostitutes.
Well, I suppose that every man would say that.
A Partisan’s Daughter
Louis de Bernieres, 2008
375 There were no photographs of the boy’s father in the house upstate.
His Illegal Self
Peter Carey, 2008
376 Hot, thought the Parisians.
Suite Francaise
Irene Nemirovsky, 1942 (tr. Sandra Smith, 2006)
377 In the dying light of an autumn day in 1937, a certain Herr Edvard Uhl, a secret agent, descended from a first-class railway carriage in the city of Warsaw.
The Spies of Warsaw
Alan Furst, 2008
378 We come sweeping up the tree-lined boulevard with siren and lights and when the GPS urges us to make the next left we take it so fast that all the gear slams and sways inside the vehicle.
Tim Winton, 2008
379 In the day’s last light the glowing lake below the palace-city looked like a sea of molten gold.
The Enchantress of Florence
Salman Rushdie, 2008
380 The letter came, deceptively, in the kind of envelope a businesslike friend, or his supervisor, might use.
The House on Fortune Street
Margot Livesey, 2008
381 It was said that boys should go on their first sea voyage at the age of ten, but surely this notion was never put forth by anyone’s mother.
Blackbird House
Alice Hoffman, 2004
382 How it happens is a long story, always.
AL Kennedy, 2004
383 The manhunt extended across more than one hundred light years and eight centuries.
A Deepness In The Sky
Vernor Vinge, 1999
384 Monday morning when I answered the door there were twenty-one new real estate agents there, all in horrible polyester gold jackets.
The Hacker And The Ants
Rudy Rucker, 1994
385 My girlfriend was fifteen percent of my age, and I was old-fashioned enough that it bugged me.
Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom
Cory Doctorow, 2003
386 In the summer of his twelfth year — the summer the stars began to fall from the sky — the boy Isaac discovered that he could tell East from West with his eyes closed.
Robert Charles Wilson, 2007
387 High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour.
Changing Places
David Lodge, 1975
388 A salesman who shared his liquor and steered while sleeping…A Cherokee filled with burbon…A VW no more than a bubble of hashish fumes, captained by a college student…
Car Crash While Hitchhiking (from Jesus’ Son )
Denis Johnson, 1992
389 The letter sat before him, unopened, propped against a coffee mug.
Bearing the Body
Ehud Havazelet, 2007
390 It is always like this: the best parties are made by people in trouble.
Amy Bloom, 2007
391 Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space.
Cat's Eye
Margaret Atwood, 1988
392 People ask me how a boy who was raised by a mobster grew up to become press secretary to the president of the United States.
Spinning Dixie
Eric Dezenhall, 2007
393 I hadn't been in New York in eleven years. Other than for surgery in Boston to remove a cancerous prostate, I’d hardly been off my rural mountain road in the Berkshires in those eleven years and, what’s more, had hardly looked at a newspaper or listened to the news since 9/11, three years back; with no sense of loss—merely, at the outset, a kind of drought within me—I had ceased to inhabit not just the great world but the present moment.
Exit Ghost
Philip Roth, 2007
394 It was almost as if she were waiting, hanging there, in the painted darkness.
The Art Thief
Noah Charney, 2007
395 It is a small matter that brings them together.
The Archivist’s Story
Travis Holland, 2007
396 It was dark where she was crouched but the little girl did as she'd been told.
The Forgotten Garden
Kate Morton, 2008
397 Mr Premier, Sir. Neither you nor I can speak English, but there are some things that can be said only in English.
The White Tiger
Aravind Adiga, 2008
398 Some say that I’m quarrelsome. Others hold that I’m a gossip. Fact is, I’m just interested in the truth, me being sworn to uphold the law. I take the workings of justice serious.
Blood Harvest
Brant Randall, 2008
399 I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of june, the year of grace 1751, when I took the key for the last time out of the door of my father's house.
Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886
400 Master was a little crazy; he had spent too many years reading books overseas, talked to himself in his office, did not always return greetings, and had too much hair.
Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2006

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