I might be a bit obsessed with opening lines. I’ve made a list of my favourites, and another list of more favourites. This week I got to thinking about what a great opening line tells us about the book to follow, and whether it’s enough. That’s where I came up with this game for you all: guess the classic book from its opening line!
And no, you won’t find any super-obvious “truths universally acknowledged” here (we all know that’s Pride And Prejudice, I’m not going that easy on you). Let me know at the end how many you get right!
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.Answer
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.Answer
You better not never tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy.Answer
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.Answer
It was a pleasure to burn.Answer
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.Answer
You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.Answer
1801 – I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.Answer
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.Answer
To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.Answer
We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.Answer
The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there’.Answer
The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way towards the lagoon.Answer
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.Answer
When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.Answer
You’d better not have scrolled down to the end to cheat 😉
The answers are, in order: Jane Eyre, The Bell Jar, The Color Purple, David Copperfield, Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby, Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, Little Women, The Grapes Of Wrath, The Handmaid’s Tale, In Cold Blood, Lord Of The Flies, One Hundred Years Of Solitude, and To Kill A Mockingbird.
How many did you get right? Let me know in the comments!
April 9, 2021 at 11:54 AM
I got nine! But I should have gotten Gatsby.
April 12, 2021 at 12:40 PM
Nine ain’t too shabby, though! 😉 Well done!
April 9, 2021 at 3:14 PM
Fun! I knew some of these, but there were several that I had read without remembering the opening line at all (e.g. The Handmaid’s Tale, The Bell Jar). Some I could guess without really remembering the line (Grapes of Wrath, Lord of the Flies). And some were completely new to me. First lines can be so intriguing!
April 12, 2021 at 12:41 PM
They are! I think I’ve become a little obsessed 😅
April 10, 2021 at 3:51 AM
Well I managed to get seven right. There were others I’ve read but just didn’t recognise the opening line. I’m going to test my niece on this cos she considers herself to be a bookworm too
April 12, 2021 at 12:41 PM
Oooooh how did she go? It’s been super interesting hearing everyone’s answers!