Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme created by GingerReadsLainey and now hosted by ThoughtsOnTomes, featuring topics that prompt bloggers and youtubers to list some of their favorite (and sometimes non-so-favorite) bookish things. This week's topic is: favorite first lines.
In compiling this list, I realized something: the first sentence of my novel is abyssmal. I mean it's what it needs to be, but it won't make any "favorite first lines" list. So, I'm a little bitter, for the record.
Once I got started pulling books of my shelves and scouring opening sentences, not only did I have way more fun that any person should destroying their bookcase, but I had a stack of nearly 15 possibilities. To narrow it down, I choose only from the novels that I have read (although you will see that I've noted a few great lines from some unread novels at the end). I also tried to disregard whether a novel was a favorite and judged it instead on the merits of the first line. That said, I ended up with mostly books I really enjoyed. Whoops!
Have I mentioned I've chosen six because I'm nothing if not a rebel? I did try to put them in some kind of order, that's gotta count for something right?
top 5 wednesday
"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."
What a great way to open up the first Harry Potter book! You probably expected this to be #1, right? I mean my IG handle is @heirofgryffindor after all (and possibly my blog name as well by now, I'm pre-writing this). But although I absolutely adore thess books and this line sounds like it's spoken directly from a dreaded Dursley's mouth and if this were a "favorite books" list it would be much higher up, it's first line doesn't surpass those of the others.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Did you not know this was coming? I'm sure this is totally unsurprising as Pride and Prejudice is my favorite novel of all time (well, one of them), but that aside, this line is quite brilliant. Not only does it geniusly summarize the main conflict of the entire story, it screams of our dear Mrs. Bennet's voice. I can just imagine Lizzie mimicking this to her sister Jane, snooty facial expressions and all.
"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."
Holden Caulfield really knocks me out :) No, but in all seriousness, I was so obsessed with Catcher In The Rye in high school that I named my first car, a silver Ford Escape, Holden in memory of the boy with the poison tongue. Gosh, that boy could talk himself into some trouble, I swear! This opening line drips of typical Holden Caulfield sass and it doesn't let up until the very end. I may or may not have the final line of the novel framed on my wall. I may or may not want to be a catcher in the rye.
"Richard Gansey III had forgotten how many times he had been told he was destined for greatness."
Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle might be a recent read of mine, but that doesn't stop it from being brilliant, which it totally is. Gansey the third is my favorite character of the series for multiple reasons, not the least being that he reminds me so much of myself. And this first line to the final installment, The Raven King, is Gansey the third personified. The boy is speaking before thinking, a desperate desire to be a good friend and other people's high expectation. And he's just lovely and I love him and gaaaahhhhhh. This quote speaks to my soul and I also like how it ties in quite nicely with the first line of the first novel.
The next two are tied for first place.
"In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. 'Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,' he told me, 'just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
Unlike everyone else on the planet, I didn't read The Great Gatsby in high school and I kind of regret it. Although this novel now means quite a deal to me, it's different than if I'd read it years ago. I see it less like guide and more like a brilliant piece of literature. And from the opening line I knew it would be a great piece of literary fiction. Fitzgerald's prose is open-mouthed stunning throughout, but this line is a lesson wrapped in character development. We'd all do well to remember it.
"Scarlett O'Hara was not a beautiful woman, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charms."
Confession: I never finished reading Gone With the Wind. We read it as an excerpt in my Lit textbook in high school and although the rest of the story failed to grasp me, this first line is truly ahead of its time. In a time when women were valued first for their looks, second for family/status and practically never for personality, this is quite the wonderful personification of her. That she is charming rather than beautiful makes her, in fact, beautiful. There is so much to unpack right here. It also helps that I've always found myself more a charmer than a beauty, so I really relate to this opening line.
Fahrenheit 451's "It was a pleasure to burn" is just astounding, and "The night circus comes without warning" from The Night Circus makes me want to read it immediately.