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Great first lines that get you hooked

Updated: May 1, 2021

Reading a novel is a journey.

A great novel can entice you into a wonderful new world filled with great characters, events and emotions.

At the start of each new novel, I enter with tentative expectations as I become acquainted with the story; hoping for that strong connection. Hoping that it is a rich page-turner.

It's such a treat when a story delivers. When you can't wait to get back to it. To snuggle up in bed after a long day and read.

When I get to the end of a great story I'm left feeling elated. Satisfied. It's a glorious feeling. A joyful experience.

I choose potential books based on my favourite authors, reviews, friend's recommendations and listening to writers talk about their books on podcasts.

When I browse in bookstores, it's the cover designs, followed by the titles, that usually catch my attention. Once interested, I read the blurb at the back and if I'm still interested, I read the first line.

Great first lines are a gift to the reader and the writer. Great first lines can hook the reader immediately. Some are poignant, some are intriguing, some are creative and some are simple yet effective.

The following first lines are my favourites. They are from the novels I've read over the years. Many of these are well known and appear in similar lists over and over. They're timeless. and they still carry universal appeal. They are, and will always be, exceptional.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Like most people I lived for a long time with my mother and father. My father liked to watch the wrestling, my mother liked to wrestle: it didn’t matter what. She was in the white corner and that was that. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling

At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

You better not never tell nobody but God. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

They say when trouble comes, close ranks, and so the white people did. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

The moment builds, it swells and builds – the moment when I realise we have lost. Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

The play – for which Briony had designed the posters, programmes and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side and lined the collection box in red crêpe paper – was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch. Atonement by Ian McEwan

They said I must die. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

We came on the wind of a carnival. Chocolat by Joanna Harris

Image courtesy of Robnroll @

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