Ten Great Opening Lines of Novels

As an avid reader and writer, the ability to hook an audience from the start of a novel has always fascinated me.

Some great novels start with the introduction of an anonymous voice that you know will be your guide: “what’s it going to be then, eh?”, A Clockwork Orange. Some novels start with a blunt fact: “we rode to war in a taxi-cab”, The Bridge. Regardless, you are trapped for the next few hundred pages until you are finally relinquished, gratefully, by the author.

Here are ten of my favourite opening lines:

  1. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
  2. There are only two kinds of people in our town. The stupid and the stuck.Kami Garcia, Beautiful Creatures

  3. All this happened, more or less. – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

  4. 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

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




    6. I wake to the drone of an airplane engine and something warm dripping down my chin. – James Frey, A Million Little Pieces

7. The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel. – William Gibson, Neuromancer

8. In the beginning the universe was created. – Douglas Adams, The Hitch hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

9. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. – Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

10. He found it almost physically painful to lie, which was unfortunate for someone who had spent most of his life as a spy. – Kurt Andersen, Human Intelligence


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