Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Baker's Dozen: Intriguing Opening Lines

The opening of a book is said to be instrumental in getting a reader's attention. If the opening makes a reader curious than s/he will go on reading. While going through a list of iconic opening lines recently, I came across quite a few that I hadn't read but which made me curious. So here's a list of thirteen books that have immediately gone on my wishlist because of their intriguing opening lines.

So here goes (in no particular order):

1. It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. —Paul Auster, City of Glass (1985)

2. Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. —Ha Jin, Waiting (1999)

3. The Miss Lonelyhearts of the New York Post-Dispatch (Are you in trouble?—Do-you-need-advice?—Write-to-Miss-Lonelyhearts-and-she-will-help-you) sat at his desk and stared at a piece of white cardboard. —Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts (1933)

4. All this happened, more or less. —Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

5. The moment one learns English, complications set in. —Felipe Alfau, Cromos (1990)

6.  Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature. —Anita Brookner, The Debut (1981)

7.Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. "Stop!" cried the groaning old man at last, "Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree." —Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans (1925)


8.  It was the day my grandmother exploded. —Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road (1992)

9. We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall. —Louise Erdrich, Tracks (1988)

10. In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street. —David Markson, Wittgenstein's Mistress (1988)

11.  I have never begun a novel with more misgiving. —W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor's Edge (1944)

12.   High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour. —David Lodge, Changing Places (1975)

13. Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there's a peephole in the door, and my keeper's eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me. —Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum (1959; trans. Ralph Manheim)


Did these lines arouse your curiousity too? Have you read any of these? Were you too intrigued by the opening sentence? Did the novels fulfill your expectations? Do share.


  1. Those are truly great opening lines! Unusual and definitely draw the reader in. Thanks for sharing them.

    1. I find no. 12 to be hilarious.

      Thanks for the follow, Margot. Hope you like the posts.

  2. What a lovely post. I have read none of these, but they do sound very interesting.

    1. Thanks Tracy K. I really really want to read these now.

  3. Some great choices there Neer - and I've read six of them, so am feeling reasonably chuffed with myself!

    1. Six! That's really great. Did you enjoy them?

      Thanks for having a look.

  4. Neer, I find most lines in a Vonnegut book intriguing and I like his off-the-beaten-track style of writing too.

  5. Prashant, sorry to say but I haven't read even one of Vonnegut's books [don't think I know their titles even]. But this one seems so interesting that I am determined to read it. Hope you have recovered by now.