Great Beginnings

Recently, I decided to reread The Chronicles of Narnia, my favourite work of literature by far, even (or especially) as an adult. When I posted the opening line of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on Facebook yesterday morning, I was pleased that a few friends immediately recognized the reference. Then again, can you ever forget a sentence like this?

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

Funny and intriguing at the same time. Oh, how I love C.S. Lewis!

So that got me thinking about books that have become favourites of mine over the last 40 years… How many of them might have grabbed me with their first sentences? I figured I would dig around and came up with these examples, some from classic literature, and some from lesser-known books:

  • “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)
  • “Miss Polly Harrington entered her kitchen a little hurriedly this June morning. ” – Pollyanna (Eleanor H. Porter)
  • “The whole thing was really Mr. Onetree’s fault.” – Help! I’m a Prisoner in the Library (Eth Clifford) – I LOVED this book when I was a kid
  • (Yes, this is ONE SENTENCE—haha!) “Mrs Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops, and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde’s Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs Rachel Lynde’s door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs Rachel was sitting at her door, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.” – Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
  • “It was their first day at Rivercote Girls’ Private School, England, and the fourteen-year-old twins felt decidedly scared as they approached the headmistress’ study.” – The Mystifying Twins (Joan Price Reeve) – Another one of my favourites when I was younger. I read this book numerous times!
  • “Since dawn, three ropes had hung black against the rising sun.” – Wings of Dawn (Canadian author Sigmund Brouwer)
  • “The year that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid named Annette.” – The Princess Bride (William Goldman)
  • “‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” – Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  • “Once on a dark winter’s day, when the yellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, an odd-looking little girl sat in a cab with her father and was driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares.” – A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
  • “‘You shouldn’t be here.'” – The Mark of the King (my friend Jocelyn Green, who won a Christy Award for this book… and is going to be staying with me this weekend. She arrives tomorrow. SQUEE!!!)
  • “I was six, he was eight.” – Confessions from a Farmer’s Wife (Caroline Way, also a friend of mine!)


This list would be sorely lacking if I didn’t include what is probably the most familiar first sentence of all, though I wonder how many people know that Snoopy didn’t pen it:

It was a dark and stormy night. 

Did you know this line is from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time?

Which of those beginnings make you want to know what the next sentence is? They all work for me! What are the opening lines of some of your favourite books? I’d love to hear them! Please comment below.

And now you have a suggested reading list for the next time you’re looking for a new book to bury your nose in. 🙂

Have a great Wednesday… and I hope you have a great beginning to March tomorrow.



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