Thursday, November 05, 2009

That first sentence

My husband and I love to share the opening sentence of whatever we’re currently reading. (It’s really fun! Try it.)

We’ve learned that not that all books start with a brilliant first line. Sometimes the entire first paragraph is what hooks us.

But this blog is about that first sentence.

I thought I’d share some, taken from books on my keeper shelf. Bear in mind that my keeper shelf is huge! Choosing only a handful wasn’t easy, and I ended up pulling out books at random. In no particular order, here are the first sentences in those books, with the punctuation exactly as printed:

“If it had not been for my fiance’s alcoholic cousin Mookie I feel quite sure that my daddy would still be a member in good standing at the Oconee Hills Country Club.” (Mary Kay Andrews, HISSY FIT)

“Sophie Dempsey didn’t like Temptation even before the Garveys smashed into her ’86 Civic, broke her sister’s sunglasses, and confirmed all her worst suspicions abut people from small towns who drove beige Cadillacs.” (Jennie Crusie, WELCOME TO TEMPTATION)

“The wild child of Parrish, Mississippi, had come back to the town she’d left behind forever.” (Susan Elizabeth Phiillips, AIN’T SHE SWEET?)

“What if I told you I had a fantasy?” (J.R. Ward, LOVER REVEALED)

“There are some men who enter a woman’s life and screw it up forever.” (Janet Evanovich, ONE FOR THE MONEY)

“Every smiley moon, without fail, Claire dreamed of her childhood.” (Sarah Addison Allen, GARDEN SPELLS)

“I was fifteen when I first met Sherlock Holmes, fifteen years old with my nose in a book as I walked the Sussex Downs, and nearly stepped on him.” (Laurie R. King, THE BEEKEEPER’S APPRENTICE)

I love all those sentences and loved the stories that followed.

What about you? Do you judge a book by its first line or paragraph? If not, what (besides the author) makes you decide to read a particular book? What’s the first line of the current book you’re reading?

Until next time, and eager to read your replies,


Laura Bradford said...

These are great!!!!

I'm a first paragraph kinda gal.

I'm knee deep in deadlines right now so there's no reading going on. But your post is making me chomp at the bit!

Ann Roth said...

Laura- Here's hoping you thoroughly enjoy whatever you find the time to read next.

Linda Henderson said...

I like a good opening line but I usually go by the first chapter. If it hasn't grabbed me by then it's going to be a slow go. First line of the book I'm reading now is: The Costases' backyard was packed with people all circling the capuchin monkey, who was performing on a makeshift stage set up on the green grass (Carly Phillips - Summer Lovin'

nicolerko said...

For me I read the back blurb and sometimes a few paragraphs to decide if the book is for me.

The first line of the book I'm reading now is "It happened again. Another blind date gone wrong. No, worse than wrong. It hadn't even started." Blind-Date Bride ~ Jillian Hart

Ann Roth said...

Linda- That's a pretty interesting first sentence! Like you, I usually give a book a little time. Used to be the first 50 pages, but life's too short. If it doesn't grab me by page 20, I'm done.

Nicolerko- Now those first sentences definitely intrigue me.

What about cover art? Does that draw you to a book?

Sara said...

Love those first lines - especially the one for One For The Money...and the one that begins Garden Spells (what an awesome book that was!)

"The secret is how to die." - The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown...

Marcie said...

"I want to be a troop leader." from Lynnette Kent's Sept 04 Super 'Single with Kids'.

How about best last line of dialogue?
Jeannie Watt's from 'The Brother Returns' - "Claire, I'm so damn tired." There was an epilogue, but this line from the last chapter was perfect, it was something that suited the hero to a tee.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that line from 'The brother Returns' got to me too. It summed up the hero in just four words...showed his vulnerability and need for the heroine. I'll never forget it. She's one of my favorite writers.

nicolerko said...

The cover definitely draws me, it's the first thing that'll draw me to a book to pick it up to learn more about it.

~ Nicole

Gillian Layne said...

Oh my gosh, I was cheering when I got to the end of your list. The Beekeeper's Apprentice is on my list of top three favorite books of all time! I recommend it to everyone. I am so in love with both Mary and Sherlock.

EllenToo said...

Covers rarely if ever draw me to pick up a book. Usually it is the title and author or the blurb on the back. Also the little excerpt on the first page in the book.

"Vivian Wentworth walked down Ellis Street as fast as her four inch stilletos could carry her." from THE CHRISTMAS PRESENT by Tracy Wolff.

Ann Roth said...

Sara-- Ooh, what a great first line. And I agree, Garden Spells is one of my faves. Have you read The Sugar Queen? Another wonderful book of Sarah Addison Allen. Recently a new one, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, came out. Can't wait to read it, either.

Marcie- Last lines are cool, too. but I never read those in advance. Smile
Anonymous- Cool that you and Marcie share the love for Jeannie Watt.

Nicole- Covers are so important! Supposedly a cover can make or break a book, and like you, the cover often leads me to try a book. That said, I've learned that (say it with me now) you can't judge a book by its cover. LOL

Gillian- Another Beekeeper's Apprentice fan! I've read a bunch of the Laurie King Sherlock Holmes books. Some are better than others, don't you agree?

EllenToo- Hi! You're right, the blurb on the back is essential to drawing me. I like to skim it and the little excerpt. The book you're reading sounds fun!

PamStone said...

I admit that a good cover can draw my attention, but the back cover and the first page of the book determines whether I actually plunk down the money for the book.

Those first few lines are so important. Love the ones above. Thanks!

CC Coburn said...

Hello Ann, What a great idea to read the first line or para of the current book to one's other half! I must try it soon.
I never read first lines until I'm ready to start reading the book.
I usually buy on title or even the look of the cover - then I'll turn to the bcb and if it's still interesting me, I'll buy.
My son always picks up a book, turns to the last page and reads the last line to decide if he'll read the whole book!
My choices? - "Madeleine Cartwright didn't look at all the type of female who'd boink an old man to death for his money." from LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD by Kandy Shepherd.
About to start reading, "Making up a boyfriend is nothing new to me." from TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE by Kristan Higgins

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hey Catherine, I'm glad you liked my first line in LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD!
The first line I love isn't particularly sexy or even exciting. But when I read "Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again," I know I'm about to get deep into a favourite classic - Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

CC Coburn said...

Oh, yes! I knew that was Rebecca, Kandy. A truly great first line. Unfortunately I read Rebecca when I was aobut 12 and being a geography buff I looked up Manderley (for some reason I HAVE to know exactly where a book is set) found Manderley in Burma so all through the book was imagining jungles! It wasn't till many years later that I discovered Manderley was a property in Cornwall! duh!

Ann Roth said...

Pam- Good to know that you enjoy first lines, too.
Kandy- What a terrific first line!

CC- I could never read the last line first! But that's just me. I like to be surprised.