Friday, August 24, 2012

Opening Lines

Today I thought I would share an this interesting article I found on the best 100 opening lines from great literature, and some modern books too. There's something so important about a first sentence, and I have a feeling that novelists and writers spend a lot of time mulling over different possibilities for their openings. Either that, or they receive an inspiration and the first line writes itself.

One of my own favorites (which was included on the list) is the opening from Tolstoy's Anna Karenina:

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

I remember a college professor of mine quoting this in class one day, before I had read Anna Karenina (I believe we were learning about Verdi's opera Macbeth at the time--a very unhappy family that was indeed). This line is so simple but philosophical and mysterious at the same time, and it perfectly sets the tone for the slowly unfolding tragedy.

I read Anna Karenina while in graduate school. I did a lot of pleasure reading when I was in grad school because I had over an hour commute to school, each way, 3 to 4 days each week. Before and after the hours of practicing, teaching, lessons, and music classes I had all day, it was a treat to let the train lull me as I let my book take me into another world. I was also playing a lot of Russian music at the time, and it was fascinating to connect Tolstoy's world and the bleak music of Shostakovich that I was studying.

Do you have a favorite opening line? Please share!


  1. that's a wonderful connection- the russian music and lit at the same time. I'm not sure what my favorite opening line of a novel is, but my favorite line within a book is in As I lay Dying- " my mother is a fish."

    1. I haven't read that, but I've really been craving classics lately, so maybe I'll put it on my list!

  2. How nice to be able to sit and read on your commute. I love getting transported to another time through the books I read. Looks like you were really able to take yourself there with the music as well!! :)
    Emily at Amazing Grapes

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Emily! Yes, I didn't mind the commute as long as I had a good book going :)

  3. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.."

  4. was a pleaasure to read both an article and your post.


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