Classics Club June Question

What up, fellow book nerds?

Time for another Classics Club June discussion question! Here it is:

“What is your favourite opening sentence from a classic novel (and why)?”

This question comes at an interesting time, because I JUST read a classic with an awesome opening line! But before that, my automatic answer probably would’ve been the first line of Pride and Prejudice – that’s probably a really popular answer, but it’s so perfect!

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

Beautifully written and easy to remember? Check. Austen sass and wit? Check. Gives a glimpse of what the novel is going to be about? Check.

I recently finished reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and thought it was fantastic, and it has a great opening line.

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

fainting, swooning woman

So simple! But it immediately intrigues the reader, and tells something significant about the book: that this Manderley place is going to be important. I think Rebecca is part magic, because just reading that first line I can picture the narrator closing her eyes and her mind rushing off to this dark, wooded estate with Manderley house looming in front of moonlit clouds, with the sound of wind and the sea in the background… Yeah. It’s a powerful first line.

This kind of got me thinking about first lines. I went and looked at the opening lines of all the classics I’ve read and own, and not many of them are that memorable. Some of them have great first paragraphs, but that first sentence is lacking in a lot of the ones I flipped through. I think a good first line needs to be well-written, has to strike a chord with the reader, and has to include something about what the novel is going to be about – either a place, person, theme, general plot idea… something. Obviously I need to read more classics to discover more great opening lines, but it seems like it a rare thing to find. It has to powerful enough to be easily remembered by the reader, and that’s something hard to accomplish.

Alright fellow Clubbers, what are some of your favorite opening lines? Maybe your picks will help me decide on my next classic to read 😉

~Sarah

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16 comments

      1. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen). Quite good — it’s one of my favorites. 🙂

        “If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?”

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  1. That’s a swoon worthy sentence for sure. BUT IT’S ALSO JUST ANOTHER REMINDER THAT I HAVEN’T READ THIS BOOK! 😉

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  2. “Rebecca” seems to be cropping up a lot for this monthly meme and has greatly influenced my decision to read it post-haste!

    Here’s my favorite: “There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie and Dim and we sat in the Korova milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening.”

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    1. It’s not a classic I’ve heard a lot about until recently, so all the positive response to my reading it has REALLY surprised me! I highly recommend moving it up your to-read list though, it was really good.

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