Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Best Opening Lines of a Novel

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. 
                                                                                —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities 

"Where's Papa going with that axe?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. 
                                                                                ---E. B. White, Charlotte's Web

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. 
                                                                                ---Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. 
                                                                                ---J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. 
                                                                                ---J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. 
                                                                        ---Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. 
                                                                                —George Orwell, 1984

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. 
                                                                                —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Call me Ishmael. 
                                                                                —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. 
                                                                                —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. 
                                                                            —C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. 
                                                                                —Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford

It was a dark and stormy night. 
                                                                                ---Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country. She was a pretty Little House and she was strong and well built. 
                                                                                ---Virginia Lee Burton, The Little House

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. 
                                                                                —Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. 
                                                                                Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each Tuesday That Artsy Reader Girl assigns a topic and then post her top ten list that fits that topic. You’re more than welcome to join her and create your own top ten (or 2, 5, 20, etc.) list as well. Feel free to put a unique spin on the topic to make it work for you! Please link back to That Artsy Reader Girl in your own post so that others know where to find more information.


  1. OOh nice picks! I almost went with Harry too, but decided on the lesser known books! Lol.

    Here's my Tuesday Post

    Have a GREAT day!

    Old Follower :)

  2. You're the second or third person I've seen quote A Tale of Two Cities this week! I think that's nifty. :)

    My TTT .

  3. Wonderful quotes. I remember reading Charlotte's Web and being disturbed by that opening line, something about that axe and setting the table just didn't sit right. Although, I do love the book.

  4. I remember memorizing that first (long!) line from A Tale of Two Cities. 10th grade English. After more than 40 years, I still can recall most of it! You picked some wonderful quotes, Deb. You've also inspired me to reread Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours!

    1. It's funny how we remember things we are forced to memorize. It's so annoying to be made to memorize something yet it is so lovely to be able to quote things, years later.

  5. Great list! I love that opening to The Hobbit as well.

  6. Oh I love the opening of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader !! It reminds me of a Churchill quote like about Atlee [paraphrasing] Atlee is a very modest man. And with reason.

  7. That fist line in Charlotte's Web. Chilling.

  8. I never liked that Dicken's opening but it's so popular though.

    I'm much too familar with that Little Women opening but I don't really like the book.

    That Harry Potter opening is on so many people's list but it really is a great opening.

    I have seen the Pride and Prejudice far too many times to forget it.

    Paul Clifford and A winkle in time with the same opening line? I wonder.

    Have a lovely day.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Yes, so many people used Bulwer-Lytton's opening line, mocking him, really.

  9. Great list - I couldn't leave Moby Dick off my list! Thanks for sharing!
    My TTT is here https://bookloverssanctuary.com/2020/05/26/top-ten-tuesday-opening-lines/

  10. I should have put Harry Potter on my list. That opening line reminds me of my childhood.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  11. It was a dark and stormy night. You can't get much better than that one.

  12. Almost all of these would have made my list too.. I decided to go with other books instead..
    While I have not read at least three, one of them is new to me - Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford

  13. Wow! Those are some excellent examples. One can't find anything to criticize about any of them and every one makes you want to read further. It's impossible to pick a favorite.

  14. Your list has some of my favourite opening lines from books I read as a child. :)
    Here's my TTT!

  15. I really should read Moby Dick sometime.

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday.

  16. I love a good opening line in a book and these are awesome! I hope that when school finishes next week I'll feel like reading again. It is so frustrating!


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