“All this happened, more or less”*: Ten Great Opening Sentences in Fiction

Sometimes the opening sentence of a novel comes down on you like the safety bar on a roller coaster. That first line locks you in; you tingle with excitement, anticipating the ride that is to come. Here are ten of the most engaging lines that begin works of fiction, some classics, some new, some you may never have heard of, but all captivating:

1.  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 

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

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

4.  “To start with, look at all the books.”  Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot 

5.  “They met at the museum to end it.”  – Johnathan Lethem, You Don’t Love Me Yet

6.  “Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.” D.H. Lawrence,  Lady Chatterley’s Lover

7.  “I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday.” John Scalzi,  Old Man’s War 

8.  “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

9.  “She was so deeply imbedded in my consciousness that for the first year of school I seem to have believed that each of my teachers was my mother in disguise.” Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint 

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

*Note:  Post title is from Kurt Vonnegut’s classic, Slaughterhouse-Five 


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