“Never open a book with weather” – my ten favourite openings to a novel

I am not sure quite where to attribute the above quote, although it is the first of Elmore Leonard’s ten tips for writers. I can actually think of a few classic novels that open with weather, for example Jane Eyre.

Anyway, for no particular reason, here are my top ten opening sentences in a novel, in no particular order of merit. Some immediately grab by the scruff of the neck, whilst others are more subtle. Some are from acknowledged classics, whilst others perhaps would appear in no list but mine.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – “Marley was dead, to begin with.”

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald – “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 Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.”

Moby Dick by Herman Melville – “Call me Ishmael.”

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – “We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.”

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien – “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

1984 by George Orwell – “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

The Ghost by Robert Harris – “The moment I heard how McAra died, I should have walked away.”

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger – “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.”

I leave you with the opening to my most popular novel, Children of the Folded Valley, just to whet your appetite if you haven’t read it:

Folded Valley cover

“We spend our adult lives trying to regain what we lost in childhood.”

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3 Responses to “Never open a book with weather” – my ten favourite openings to a novel

  1. republibot3 says:

    I was going to throw one of my own first lines in here, but I’m blanking and can’t remember any.

  2. I have to add Raymond Chandler to the list – the opening of his story “Red Wind:”
    “There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Ana’s that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”

  3. Pingback: Which Stories Would You Read? #OpeningLines – Zena Shapter

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