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People say life is the thing, but I prefer reading*

First Lines

I recently started reading Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, which begins with the famous line "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."

Although I've never read Rebecca before the first line was familiar to me and I started thinking about how reading the first line of a favourite book can feel like meeting up with an old friend. For instance "'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents', grumbled Jo, lying on the rug' feels like a big fluffy hug to me, being the opening line of one of my favourite books of all time* - Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

I seized upon this idea as an excuse to a) have a look at some of my old favourites that I missed so much when they were boxed up and out of reach, and therefore b) not do my ironing.

Here are some of the first lines that I picked out:

"What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays."
The Twits, Roald Dahl

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

"We slept in what had once been the gymnasium."
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (I read this, my first Margaret Atwood book, at school when I was 16 on the advice of my lovely English teacher, Mrs Nelken. This stood out for me as when I saw Margaret Atwood at the Queen's Hall last week she spoke about putting her high school gym into The Handmaid's Tale.)

"The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home."
The Wind In The Willows, Kenneth Grahame

"I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to."
The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson (I know this is technically the first TWO lines, but you can't NOT have the punchline to that joke)

"No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine."
Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen

"Marley was dead, to begin with."
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

"When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle, everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen."
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

"I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice."
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

"'Where's papa going with that axe?' said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast."

And then later from the same book, a description which had me begging my parents for a baby pig that I would name Wilbur:

"As she approached her chair, the carton wobbled, and there was a scratching noise. Fern looked at her father. Then she lifted the lid of the carton. There, inside, looking up at her, was the newborn pig. It was a white one. The morning light shone through its ears, turning them pink."
Charlotte's Web, E.B. White

These are in no particular order, just the order in which I picked them off my bookshelves, lovingly caressed their worn pages, gave them a hug and replaced them on the shelf.

I also found this series of quizzes on opening lines of all sorts of books, which kept me occupied for far longer than it should have today.

*I have tried many times to pin down my one favourite book, and I just can't do it. There are too many that I love far too much to be able to pick one over the other - it would feel like a betrayal.


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At 18.10.06, Blogger Vicki said...

You missed my total favourite:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

P & P - Jane Austen

Something about it makes me laugh out loud. . .    

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*Logan Pearsall Smith

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