“In the beginning . . .”

Every writer knows the importance of starting well. Here’s a list of some of the best first lines from famous novels. Without Google, how many of these do you recognize? Post your answers in the comment section – bonus points for identifying the author.

1. “Call me Ishmael.”

2. “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.”

3. “I am an invisible man.”

4. “You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.”

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

6. “I was born in the Year 1632, in the City of York, of a good Family, tho’ not of that Country.”

7. “The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting.”

8. “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

9. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

*From the list of the 100 best first lines from novels, as decided by the American Book Review, a nonprofit journal published at the Unit for Contemporary Literature at Illinois State University

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8 thoughts on ““In the beginning . . .”

    • Those three are correct, Bob!

      I plan to add the answers in a day or two – want to give my “silent” friends sufficient opportunity to attempt an answer! 😀

  1. Those three are the only ones I know, too. Although I think #3 is a book called “Memoirs of an Invisible Man”, isn’t it? None of the others ring any bells (although the Clarence Scrubbs reference sounds vaguely familiar).

    I’ll resist the urge to Google just to falsely impress you or anyone 😉

    • Close, Steve. #3 is Invisible Man. Apparently not the same as “The Memoirs of an Invisible Man,” or “The Invisible Man” by H. G. Wells. Originally, I guessed the Wells’ book.

      The Clarence Scrubb line is from The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, so I’m suspect it might indeed be familiar.

  2. Thanks to Bob and Steve for being good sports and playing along. For them, and all those who read without commenting, (you know who you are 😉 ) here are the answers:
    1. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
    2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
    3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
    4. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
    5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis
    6. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
    7. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
    8. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
    9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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