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.

401 Let me introduce you to Victor Skynard, the mixed-ability parasite, radical socio-irritant and spiritual bomb-thrower who came into the cafe that day.
Eating Air
Pauline Melville, 2009
402 From the canoe, stilled on the still cove of the lake, the land was reflected in detail in the water: branches and leaves and pinecones, berry bushes, and the stone-and-timber house on the steep bank among trees.
David Plante, 2007
403 He speaks in your voice, American, and there’s a shine in his eye that’s always hopeful.
Don Delillo, 1997
404 Everyone is born with some special talent, and Eliza Sommers discovered early on that she had two: a good sense of smell and a good memory.
Daughter of Fortune
Isabel Allende, 1999
405 The idea of using porn films to encourage the dairy cows to breed had been a poor one.
This Is Not Civilization
Robert Rosenberg, 2004
406 The idea really came to me the day I got my false teeth.
Coming Up for Air
George Orwell, 1939
407 Death was driving an emerald-green Lexus.
Winter Moon
Dean Koontz, 1994
408 “So the garden of number eighty-four is nothing more than a sort of playground for all the kids of the neighbourhood?"
The Northern Clemency
Philip Hensher, 2008
409 There are moments of great luxury in the life of a secret agent.
Live and Let Die
Ian Fleming, 1954
410 Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantoms of hope; who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow; attend to the history of Rasselas, prince of Abissinia.
The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia
Samuel Johnson, 1759
411 The towers of Zenith aspired above the morning mist; austere towers of steel and cement and limestone, sturdy as cliffs and delicate as silver rods.
Sinclair Lewis, 1922
412 The man sitting next to the podium appeared to be very old, at least in the eyes of the members of his audience, most of whom were very young.
The Indian Clerk
David Leavitt, 2007
413 It used to be Cliff and Vivian and now it isn’t.
The English Major
Jim Harrison, 2008
414 This is what I write to her: The clouds tonight embossed the sky. A dipping sun gilded and brazed each raveling edge as if the firmament were threaded through with precious filaments.
Geraldine Brooks, 2005
415 At twenty-four the ambassador's daughter slept badly through the warm, unsurprising nights.
Shalimar the Clown
Salman Rushdie, 2005
416 In 1972 I was sixteen - young, my father said, to be traveling with him on his diplomatic missions.
The Historian
Elizabeth Kostova, 2005
417 Cash isn't the only thing I take from my father's study when I leave home.
Kafka on the Shore
Haruki Murakami, 2005 (tr. Philip Gabriel)
418 In the darkness, he touched her arm and said, "Stay here."
State of Fear
Michael Crichton, 2004
419 Some hours before dawn Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, wakes to find himself already in motion, pushing back the covers from a sitting position, and then rising to his feet.
Ian McEwan, 2005
420 I think that everything, or at least the part of everything that happened to me, started with the Roman architecture mix-up.
Curtis Sittenfeld, 2005
421 When they write my obituary. Tomorrow. Or the next day. It will say, LEO GURSKY IS SURVIVED BY AN APARTMENT FULL OF SHIT.
The History of Love
Nicole Krauss, 2005
422 Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block?
A Long Way Down
Nick Hornby, 2005
423 Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Khaled Hosseini, 2007
424 "Then she says, now dig this, she says ..." and he broke up laughing, a strange, rasping laugh, for maybe the fourth time since he started what was shaping up as an interminable story, "...she says: 'Listen, who do I have to fuck to get off this picture?!?' "
Blue Movie
Terry Southern, 1970
425 Everyone called him Pop Eye.
Mr Pip
Lloyd Jones, 2007
426 We may as well begin with the ride home.
Mary Gordon, 2005
427 Most really pretty girls have pretty ugly feet, and so does Mindy Metalman, Lenore notices, all of a sudden.
The Broom of the System
David Foster Wallace, 1987
428 In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.
Wittgenstein's Mistress
David Markson, 1988
429 Six months before Polly Cain drowned in the canal, my sister, Nona, ran off and married a cowboy.
The God of Animals
Aryn Kyle, 2007
430 The sun poked out briefly, evidence of a universe above them, of watchful things--planets and stars and vast galaxies of infinite knowledge—and just as suddenly it retreated behind the clouds.
The Last Town on Earth
Thomas Mullen, 2006
431 This is Lexie Madison’s story, not mine.
The Likeness
Tana French, 2008
432 In a broad valley, at the foot of a sloping hillside, beside a clear bubbling stream, Tom was building a house.
The Pillars of the Earth
Ken Follett, 1989
433 After many years of believing I never dream of anything, I dreamed of Africa.
The Darling
Russell Banks, 2004
434 Of course an erect penis is all very well at the end of a party, rather to be desired really, but its not the first thing you expect to see when you enter a room.
Pants on Fire
Maggie Alderson, 2000
435 After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn’s for an oyster supper.
The Meaning of Night: A Confession
Michael Cox, 2006
436 The President of the United States awoke that Monday morning with his usual hangover--fashioned not of liquor but of tensions and worries that sleep had failed to dissolve.
The President's Plane is Missing
Robert J Serling, 1967
437 They were round-shouldered and droopy-headed like mourners, the shadowy child-sized creatures, squatting by the side of the sloping road.
Monkey Hill (from The Elephanta Suite)
Paul Theroux, 2007
438 The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.
Scott Westerfeld, 2005
439 Around the grave in the rundown cemetery were a few of his former advertising colleagues from New York, who recalled his energy and originality and told his daughter, Nancy, what a pleasure it had been to work with him.
Philip Roth, 2006
440 In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Carson McCullers, 1940
441 The Elite Cafe was entered by a staircase from the foyer of a cinema.
Alisdair Gray, 1981
442 Five large, hairy men were gathered for a top secret meeting in a bunker under the presidential palace in the city of Krpsht.
Science Fair
Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, 2008
443 We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall.
Louise Erdrich, 1988
444 It was a moment Sarah Page had been working toward ever since she first walked into the Washington Capital newsroom six summers earlier.
The Rules of the Game
Leonard Downie Jr, 2009
446 Had Eddie Wesley been a less reliable man, he would never have stumbled over the body, chased Junie to Tennessee, battled the devils to a draw, and helped to topple a President.
Palace Council
Stephen L Carter, 2008
447 In the warm glow of fires that lit the clearing at the centre of straw-roofed mud huts, palm-leaf cups of toddy flew from hand to hand.
An Atlas of Impossible Longing
Anuradha Roy, 2008
448 On the day he met Olga Lazovich Milanoff Hinzenberg, at a ballet performance in Chicago in the fall of 1924, Frank Lloyd Wright was feeling optimistic, buoyant even.
The Women
TC Boyle, 2009
449 After eight months spent in the obscurity of our mother’s womb, my brother, Shiva, and I came into the world in the late afternoon of the twentieth of September in the year of grace 1954.
Cutting for Stone
Abraham Verghese, 2009
450 Mae Mobley was born on a early Sunday morning in August, 1960.
The Help
Kathryn Stockett, 2009
451 It started as an accident.
The Piano Teacher
Janice YK Lee, 2009
452 Sam Simoneaux leaned against the ship's rail, holding on in the snarling wind as his lieutenant struggled toward him through the spray, grabbing latches, guy wires, valve handles. "Pretty bad belowdecks," the lieutenant cried out against the blow.
The Missing
Tim Gautreaux, 2009
453 I move his chair into the yard under the tree and then Nonie carries him out.
Lark and Termite
Jayne Anne Phillips, 2009
454 When did I first stumble into the wrong grove?
The Sky Below
Stacey D'Erasmo, 2009
455 When they first came into the country it was wet and raining and if they had known of the droughts that lasted for seven years at a time they might never have stayed.
The Color of Lightning
Paulette Jiles, 2009
456 Four hours after his failed suicide attempt, he descended toward Aerodrom Ljubljana.
The Tourist
Olen Steinhauer, 2009
457 Usnavy was an old man. Not in age so much — he had turned fifty-four that year — but he was born old, his childhood brow prematurely molded into an expression of permanent concern, his gait, even as a youngster, as labored as if he'd been instantly injured on the job, both in spirit and in fact.
Achy Obejas, 2009
458 On November 11 Lowboy ran to catch a train.
John Wray, 2009
459 In the beginning, John Morrison is working in his garden.
The Glister
John Burnside, 2008
460 The afternoon before I left London for new York — Rachel had flown out six weeks previously — I was in my cubicle at work, boxing up my possessions, when a senior vice president at the bank, an Englishman in his fifties, came to wish me well.
Joseph O’Neill, 2008
461 Anna K. was not the only pale woman in black shearling to glide along 108th Street in Rego Park, but she was the most striking.
What Happened to Anna K.
Irina Reyn, 2008
462 Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians.
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Susanna Clarke, 2004
463 Walt said that the dead turned into grass, but there was no grass where they'd buried Simon.
Specimen Days
Michael Cunningham, 2005
464 He did not expect to see blood.
Kramer vs Kramer
Avery Corman, 1977
465 From her perch in the middle of the backseat, Meri surveys the two in front-her husband, Nathan, and Sheila, the real estate agent.
The Senator's Wife
Sue Miller, 2007
466 I was born and bred in a tiny, low-ceilinged ground-floor flat.
A Tale of Love and Darkness
Amos Oz, 2003 (tr. Nicholas de Lange, 2004)
467 All around the country, the women were waking up.
The Ten-Year Nap
Meg Wolitzer, 2008
468 There were a hundred and seven of them, of all ages, shapes and sizes, from twenty-five- and thirty-year-olds in dresses that looked like they were made of Saran Wrap to a couple of big beamed older types in pantsuits who could have been somebody's mother-and I mean somebody grown, with a goatee beard and a job at McDonald's.
Termination Dust (from After the Plague)
TC Boyle, 2001
469 During the Great War, I lived in the west of Berlin, in a room with a balcony in a small boarding house on Fasanenstrasse.
To This Day
S Y Agnon, 1951 (tr. Hillel Halkin, 2008)
470 Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blond Ukrainian divorcee.
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
Marina Lewycka, 2005
471 Last night at 3:00 a.m. President Kennedy had been killed.
Tree of Smoke
Denis Johnson, 2007
472 The harp player had just fallen off the stage and cracked his head on an Italian tourist's pint.
McCarthy's Bar
Pete McCarthy, 2000
473 "I see . . ." said the vampire thoughtfully, and slowly he walked across the room toward the window.
Interview with the Vampire
Anne Rice, 1976
474 “And suddenly,” said the elderly American man in the white shirt, “suddenly, a pigeon flew overhead, above that hell.”
A Pigeon and a Boy
Meir Shalev, 2006 (tr. Evan Fallenberg, 2007)
475 A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story.
The Angel’s Game
Carlos Ruiz Zafon, 2008 (tr. Lucia Graves, 2009)
476 She lay on her back fastened by leather strap to a narrow bed with a steel frame.
The Girl Who Played With Fire
Stieg Larsson, 2004 (tr. Reg Keeland, 2009)
477 It was as black in the closet as old blood.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Alan Bradley, 2009
478 I’m a problematic infant but everything seems okay to me.
Nicola Keegan, 2009
479 She had never lived in a house and now, seeing the thing, she was no longer sure she wanted to.
All the Living
CE Morgan, 2009
480 Henry Archer did not attend his ex-wife’s husband’s funeral, but he did send a note of condolence.
The Family Man
Elinor Lipman, 2009
481 The rain came unexpectedly, after nearly three years of drought.
Secret Son
Laila Lalami, 2009
482 On a Thursday night in late December, I stood in my friend Indrani Dressler’s living room, flirting with a man I had just met.
Kate Christensen, 2009
483 When I was a young child growing up in Korea, it was said that the image of the fading moon at daybreak, reflected in a pond or stream or even a well, resembled the speckled shell of a dragon’s egg.
Alan Brennert, 2009
484 I used to be human once.
Animal’s People
Indra Sinha, 2007
485 Somewhere in Eastern Germany, my grandfather Askild is running across an open plain.
Morten Ramsland, 2005 (tr. Tiina Nunnally, 2006)
486 "Our daughter looks like a South China peasant with those red cheeks," my father complains, pointedly ignoring the soup before him. "Can't you do something about them?"
Shanghai Girls
Lisa See, 2009
487 Once a year there was a knock at the door.
The Story Sisters
Alice Hoffman, 2009
488 Inside a barrel in the bottom of a boat, with a canteen of water wedged between his legs and a packet of poison concealed in his pocket, Jacob Rappaport felt a knot tightening in his stomach—not because he was doing something dangerous, but because he was about to do something wrong.
All Other Nights
Dara Horn, 2009
489 Eilis Lacey, sitting at the window of the upstairs living room in the house on Friary Street, noticed her sister walking briskly from work.
Colm Toibin, 2009
490 The girl was the first to hear the loud pounding on the door.
Sarah's Key
Tatiana De Rosnay, 2007
491 Alice sat at her desk in their bedroom distracted by the sounds of John racing through each of the rooms on the first floor.
Still Alice
Lisa Genova, 2007, 2009
492 The bandidos came to the village at the worst possible time.
Into the Beautiful North
Luis Alberto Urrea, 2009
493 For a reason Rosa could not explain, the face of the Madonna filled her with terror.
The Chapel at the Edge of the World
Kirsten Mckenzie, 2009
494 “You’re the ex-priest.” Temple pointed out. You must know how we can avoid the wedding from Hell?”
Cat in a Topaz Tango
Carole Nelson Douglas, 2009
495 On Wednesday, the eighth day of March, 2000, as he passed through the area surrounding his domicile in the locality of Quinua, Justino Mayta Carazo (31) discovered a body.
Red April
Santiago Roncagliolo 2006 (tr. Edith Grossman, 2009)
496 Jimmy Luntz had never been to war, but this was the sensation, he was sure of that—eighteen guys in a room, Rob, the director, sending them out—eighteen guys shoulder to shoulder, moving out on the orders of their leader to do what they’ve been training day and night to do.
Nobody Move
Denis Johnson, 2009
497 Especially when he was alone Alec Malone had the habit of slipping into reverie, a semiconscious state not to be confused with dreams.
Exiles in the Garden
Ward Just, 2009
498 I first saw Hundreds Hall when I was ten years old.
The Little Stranger
Sarah Waters, 2009
499 Though the digital clock on the bedside table in his hotel room read 5:17, Jack Griffin, suddenly wide awake, knew he wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep.
That Old Cape Magic
Richard Russo, 2009
500 Had I not been there, no account, no print, no evidence of witnesses could have made me believe what I saw that day.
The Mathematics of Love
Emma Darwin, 2007

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