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.

601 It was as if his eye were an ear and a crackle went through it each time he shot a look at the accordion.
Accordion Crimes
Annie Proulx, 1996
602 Our mother performed in starlight. Whose innovation this was I never discovered. Probably it was Chief Bigtree’s idea, and it was a good one—to blank the follow spot and let a sharp moon cut across the sky, unchaperoned; to kill the microphone; to leave the stage lights’ tin eyelids scrolled and give the tourists in the stands a chance to enjoy the darkness of our island; to encourage the whole stadium to gulp air along with Swamplandia!’s star performer, the world-famous alligator wrestler Hilola Bigtree.
Karen Russell, 2011
603 My mother was not real. She was an early dream, a hope. She was a place. Snowy, like here, and cold.
Caribou Island
David Vann, 2011
604 Those of us acquainted with their sordid and scandalous story were not surprised to hear, by way of rumors from the various localities where the sorceresses had settled after fleeing our venerable town of Eastwick, Rhode Island, that the husbands whom the three Godforsaken women had by their dark arts concocted for themselves did not prove durable.
The Widows of Eastwick
John Updike, 2008
605 My name is Bruno Littlemore: Bruno I was given, Littlemore I gave myself, with some prodding I have finally decided to give this undeserving and spiritually diseased world the generous gift of my memoirs.
The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore
Benjamin Hale, 2011
606 It was a cold, clear morning, the sun low in the sky, casting long shadows that stretched the length of the sidewalk.
In the Rooms
Tom Shone, 2011
607 If I hadn’t been spending so much time living in my head, I might have noticed earlier that there was something terribly wrong with the single-engine plane circling overhead.
Bad Bird
Chris Knopf, 2011
608 A man and a rooster exit a taxi idling on a crowded street.
Alexander Yates, 2011
609 Tuesdays, Emily Maxwell put what precious little remained of her life in God’s and her sister-in-law Arlene’s shaky hands and they drove together to Edgewood for Eat ‘n Park’s two-for-one breakfast buffet.
Emily, Alone
Stewart O’Nan, 2011
610 Such a thing had never been witnessed in the village: a small herd of ibex skittering down Drum Hill towards the main road, their thick, ribbed horns blue in the small hours, their yellow eyes catching the streetlight.
The Hunger Trace
Edward Hogan, 2011
611 Somewhere downstairs a door keeps banging in the wind.
The Emperor's Body
Peter Brooks, 2011
612 Some things were certain; they were undeniable, inarguable. Nora Lindell was gone, for one thing. There was no doubt about that.
The Fates Will Find Their Way
Hannah Pittard, 2011
613 The door was presumed to have been the entry to a coal chute, a perfectly reasonable assumption since a small hillock of damp coal sat moldering before it.
The Night Strangers
Chris Bohjalian, 2011
614 Warily, watchfully, point on patrol in hostile terrain, Joe Shelby surveyed the newsroom of the Paris Star—the stained carpeting and exposed air-conditioner ducts; the battered, battleship-gray paintwork of his new professional home, his Valhalla.
The Paris Correspondent
Alan S Cowell, 2011
615 He was a man well accustomed to waking up in unorthodox positions and all manner of settings.
The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers
Thomas Mullen, 2010
616 The plane had yet to take off, but Osgood, the photographer, was already snoring softly.
Ape House
Sara Gruen, 2010
617 The cat is chasing the mouse through the kitchen: between the blue chair legs, over the tabletop with its red-and-white-checkered tablecloth that is already sliding in great waves, past the sugar bowl falling to the left and the cream jug falling to the right, over the blue chair back, down the chair legs, across the waxed and butter-yellow floor.
Dangerous Laughter (from Dangerous Laughter)
Steven Millhauser, 2008
618 The news about Walter Berglund wasn't picked up locally--he and Patty had moved away to Washington two years earlier and meant nothing to St. Paul now--but the urban gentry of Ramsey Hill were not so loyal to their city as not to read the New York Times.
Jonathan Franzen, 2010
619 There is just enough space inside here for one person to live indefinitely, or at least that’s what the operation manual says.
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
Charles Yu, 2010
620 I never cared for Wesley Davidson when he was alive and seeing him beside me laid out dead didn’t much change that.
Dead Confederates (from Burning Bright)
Ron Rash, 2010
621 When I saw the Chinese woman and her daughter playing cards together at their restaurant table, the water and the lights of Sydney harbour shimmering behind them, it set me thinking about Stuart, and the reason he had to give up driving his car.
The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim
Jonathan Coe, 2010
622 Act one, scene one opens with Lillian Hellman clawing her way, stumbling and scrambling, through the thorny nighttime underbrush of some German schwarzwald, a Jewish baby clamped to each of her tits, another brood of infants clinging to her back.
Chuck Palahniuk, 2010
623 The astronomer’s wife is on her knees in the garden, facing away from him, stabbing at the soil with a silver trowel, her head covered with a big straw gardener’s hat that is in fact a thrift-store sombrero whose dangly felt pompoms she long ago snipped off.
Percival’s Planet
Michael Byers, 2010
624 In my line of work its called anecdotal lede, a way of beginning a complicated story with a telling human angle.
Deadline Man
Jon Talton, 2010
625 On the banks of the mighty Columbia River, in the icy season when every breath becomes visible, the orchard called Belye Nochi was quiet.
Winter Garden
Kristin Hannah, 2010
626 Like everyone, I am born naked.
Sena Jeter Naslund, 2006
627 Paul Fischer had always pictured the end of the world being a bit more...industrial.
Scott Sigler, 2010
628 Gus stood beside the living room window, waiting for the annual spring rains.
Perfect Peace
Daniel Black, 2010
629 In the summer of 1917 Robert Grainier took part in an attempt on the life of a Chinese laborer caught, or anyway accused of, stealing from the company stores of the Spokane International Railway in the Idaho Panhandle.
Train Dreams
Denis Johnson, 2002
630 The Rutherford girl had been missing for eight days when Larry Ott returned home and found a monster waiting in his house.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Tom Franklin, 2010
631 They came up from the horse barn in the slanted light of early morning.
Kent Haruf, 2004
632 There was once, in the city of Kahani, in the land of Alifbay, a boy named Luka who had two pets, a bear named Dog and a dog named Bear, which meant that whenever he called out, "Dog!" the bear waddled up amiably on his hind legs, and when he shouted, "Bear!" the dog bounded toward him, wagging his tail.
Luka and the Fire of Life
Salman Rushdie, 2010
633 I played for some bad crowds, but man, that last one...A couple hundred drunks banging on the glass, chins flapping with beer fat.
In Search of Mercy
Michael Ayoob, 2010
634 It is a generally accepted fact that at some point during your birthday, you will reassess your life.
Lowcountry Summer
Dorothea Benton Frank, 2010
635 There are some stories no one wants to hear.
The Nobodies Album
Carolyn Parkhurst, 2010
636 I fell in love with Emma Eckstein the moment I saw her from the fourth gallery of the Carl Theater, and this was also the night I met Sigmund Freud.
A Curable Romantic
Joseph Skibbel, 2010
637 The last day of August, and the sky is the colour of hot ash.
The Sealed Letter
Emma Donoghue, 2008
638 As a minister I rarely found the entirety of a Sunday service depressing.
Secrets of Eden
Chris Bohjalian, 2010
639 His reputation, like the lust for Stetsons and high-heeled boots, started at the state line, and he made the most of it by plastering the front of the Jersey Lilly with signs (ICE-COLD BEER & LAW WEST OF THE PECOS) and placing himself on display in a rocking chair on the porch at train time.
Roy & Lillie
Loren D Estleman, 2010
640 The first case of polio that summer came early in June, right after Memorial Day, in a poor Italian neighborhood crosstown from where we lived.
Philip Roth, 2010
641 The house in East Red Hook, a village a few miles outside the town of Red Hook proper, was a flight of Queen Anne fancy, with a witch-hat turret, obsessive gingerbread, multihued brickwork and tile, and a secret room hidden behind a bookcase.
Red Hook Road
Ayelet Waldman, 2010
642 I was reading about how to survive the end of the universe when I got a text message from my friend Libby.
Our Tragic Universe
Scarlett Thomas, 2010
643 She was a girl like you or like someone you knew—from a cracked home, a fault line between her parents, for which she felt responsible.
The Handbook for Lighting Strike Survivors
Michele Young-Stone, 2010
644 Grace had imagined Daniel’s homecoming hundreds of times; repeatedly she had painted the scene in her mind’s eye.
Original Sins
Peg Kingman, 2010
645 Before husbands, before babies, before life claimed other loyalties, it started with a wish.
With Friends Like These
Sally Koslow, 2010
646 Before I met Alpha Breville, all I knew about Stillwater, Minnesota, was that antique shops and cloying quaintness filled its downtown.
Maureen Gibbon, 2010
647 "Why, thank you. I’m getting in shape to die.” Those were the first words I spoke aloud on the final Thursday in August of last summer: Thursday, I recall for certain, because it was the day on which I read in our weekly town paper about the first of what I would so blithely come to call the Crusades; the end of the month, I can also say for certain, because Elves & Fairies was scheduled, that very evening, to fling open its brand-new, gloriously purple doors— formerly the entrance to my beloved barn—and usher in another flight of tiny perfect children, along with their preened and privileged parents.
The Widower’s Tale
Julia Glass, 2010
648 I fell in love with my great-uncle Harper because he taught me how to dance.
Bitter in the Mouth
Monique Truong, 2010
649 Five minutes to three in the afternoon. Exactly sixty-one hours before it happened.
61 Hours
Lee Child, 2010
650 I am hiding, someplace cold. Someplace they won’t find me, or haven’t yet.
American Subversive
David Goodwillie, 2010
651 The journey was nearly over.
The Surrendered
Chang-Rae Lee, 2010
652 Alec Krasnansky stood on the platform of Vienna’s Western Terminal while, all around him, the representatives of Soviet Jewry—from Tallinn to Tashkent—roiled, snarled, and elbowed to deposit their belongings onto the waiting train.
The Free World
David Bezmozgis, 2011
653 There are a lot of places I could begin the story, and a lot of ways I could change a few details and make it easier to read.
The Talk-Funny Girl
Roland Merullo, 2011
654 The pavement rises up and hits her.
How it All Began
Penelope Lively, 2011
655 China’s turned on herself.
Salvage the Bones
Jesmyn Ward, 2011
656 The forty days of the soul begin on the morning after death.
The Tiger’s Wife
Tea Obreht, 2011
657 Always thought if I didn’t get tenure I would shoot myself or strap a bomb to my chest and walk into the faculty cafeteria, but when it happened I just got bourbon drunk and cried a lot and rolled into a ball on my office floor.
Mat Johnson, 2011
658 The town of Blackwell, Massachusetts, changed its name in 1786. It had been called Bearsville when it was founded in 1750, but it quickly became apparent that a name such as that did little to encourage new settlers.
The Red Garden
Alice Hoffman, 2011
659 And so when I began to go on evening walks last fall, I found Morningside Heights an easy place from which to set out into the city.
Open City
Teju Cole, 2011
660 So it had come to this, she thought, as the last of the afternoon shrank away.
Half of the Human Race
Anthony Quinn, 2011
661 The oceans rose and the clouds washed over the sky; the tide of humanity came revolving in love and betrayal, in skyscrapers and ruins, through walls breached and children conjured, and soon it was the year 2002.
The History of History
Ida Hattemer-Higgins, 2011
662 I opened the bevelled-glass door under the sign announcing Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company in ornate bronze.
Clara and Mr Tiffany
Susan Vreeland, 2011
663 All this happened quite a few years ago.
I Curse the River of Time
Per Petterson, 2008 (Tr. Charlotte Barslund, 2010)
664 When DJ Jazzy-G hit the intro to “Just like Heaven,” that Cure anthem of his youth, Henry Gray achieved a moment of complete ex-pat euphoria.
The Nearest Exit
Olen Steinhauer, 2010
665 Dearest Diary,
Today I’ve made a major decision: I am never going to die.
Super Sad True Love Story
Gary Shteyngart, 2010
666 Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra.
Emma Donoghue, 2010
667 It was four hundred eighty-four miles from my parents’ home in Peoria, Illinois to Nashville, Tennessee, a distance that in a seven-year-old red Monte Carlo driving at roughly sixty miles an hour could be crossed in eight to twelve hours, depending on certain variables such as the number of road signs offering side excursions to historical landmarks, and how often my mother, Mariam, would have to go to the bathroom.
How to Read the Air
Dinaw Mengestu, 2010
668 Must one suffer and then feel death's ice-cold breath on the nape of one's neck in order to understand why one has been going around since earliest childhood with an ill-defined despondency close to melancholy?
The Sonderberg Case
Elie Wiesel, 2008 (Tr. Catherine Temerson, 2010)
669 Mellas stood beneath the gray monsoon clouds on the narrow strip of cleared ground between the edge of the jungle and the relative safety of the perimeter wire.
Karl Marlantes, 2010
670 Every single human being is part of a grand universal plan.
The House of Tomorrow
Peter Bognanni, 2010
671 The Mistake is coming to stay for a while.
By Nightfall
Michael Cunningham, 2010
672 The first television Fintan Dunne viewed (that’s the word the newspapers kept using, with their regular updates of how many million more sets were sold and how many more television viewers there were) was in Wanamaker’s on Astor Place, just before Christmas, the winter the Red Chinese entered the Korean War.
The Man Who Never Returned
Peter Quinn, 2010
673 In the top floor room of the dilapidated townhouse across the Terrace, a light has been on all night.
Ghost Light
Joseph O’Connor, 2010
674 On a Sunday morning in late July, at the end of my first-ever visit to Miami, I took a cab from my hotel to Snapper Creek marina to join a woman named Marse Heiger, whom I’d met the day before.
Susanna Daniel, 2010
675 In the middle of the eulogy at my mother's boring and heartbreaking funeral, I began to think about calling off the wedding.
Love Is Not a Pie (from Come to Me)
Amy Bloom, 1990
676 It was hot as hell and Sharon Goldstein knew everyone had to be positively sweltering out back.
Something Red
Jennifer Gilmore, 2010
677 Arthur Rook didn’t know.
He woke up on Friday morning when Amy rolled out of bed, but the running of the shower sang him back to sleep.
This Must Be the Place
Kate Racculia, 2010
678 “Can’t you get this thing to go at one speed?” Malachi asked. “It’s bad enough I have to inspect a corpse at this time of night.”
Danse Macabre
Gerald Elias, 2010
679 My father once told me that the most important thing every man should know is what he would die for.
Faithful Place
Tana French, 2010
680 "We're lost," my daughter tells me for the third time in an hour. "I told you we should have gotten GPS. Lexy's mother has it and they never get lost."
Arcadia Falls
Carol Goodman, 2010
681 When not tending New York holdings, Guy Grand was generally, as he expressed it, "on the go."
The Magic Christian
Terry Southern, 1959
682 The pale Russian youth whom Odile had engaged as her driver displayed neither fear nor pity as he sent his battered panel truck hurtling through the streets of north Moscow, and he now assailed her additionally with the plot development of a movie in which he seemed to be inviting her to invest.
The Same River Twice
Ted Mooney, 2010
683 I have two diaries now.
Shadow Tag
Louise Erdrich, 2010
684 He belonged to that class of men--vaguely unprepossessing, often bald, short, fat clever--who were unaccountably attractive to certain beautiful women.
Ian McEwan, 2010
685 Percival Grigori tapped the tip of his cane as he waited for the elevator, a rhythm of sharp metallic clicks pounding out the seconds.
Danielle Trussoni, 2010
686 Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.
The Sound and the Fury
William Faulkner, 1929
687 I have been called a traitor many times in my life.
Panther in the Basement
Amos Oz, 1995 (tr. Nicholas de Lange, 1997)
688 He knew they would come that day or the next.
Land of Marvels
Barry Unsworth, 2008
689 It was an airport gypsy who told me that I had to kill my husband.
Backseat Saints
Joshilyn Jackson, 2010
690 When Jones Cooper was younger, he didn’t believe in mistakes.
Lisa Unger, 2010
691 I could not see the street or much of the estate.
The City & The City
China Melville, 2009
692 Marlais, today is March 27, 1967, your twenty-first birthday.
What Is Left the Daughter
Howard Norman, 2010
693 You're asleep, my angels, I assume.
Graham Swift, 2007
694 Peter Crowther's book on the election was already in the shops.
The Line of Beauty
Alan Hollinghurst, 2004
695 Bradley Chalkers sat at his desk in the back of the room-last seat, last row.
There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom
Louis Sachar, 1987
696 “So now get up."
Felled, dazed, silent, he has fallen; knocked full length on the cobbles of the yard.
Wolf Hall
Hilary Mantel, 2009
697 In autumn, the rains came to Macedonia.
Spies of the Balkans
Alan Furst, 2010
698 You know, Doc, you’re not the first shrink I’ve seen since I got back.
Still Missing
Chevy Stevens, 2010
699 Gwenda was eight years old, but she was not afraid of the dark.
World Without End
Ken Follett, 2007
700 We were fractious and overpaid.
Then We Came to the End
Joshua Ferris, 2007

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