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Best First Liners in Literary Fiction


How often do you read the first few lines of a novel that's so puzzling and out of line that you find yourself thinking really hard? What are those first liners that get you frowning, laughing, curious as heck, and gets you begging to read more, to read it all? Below is a compiled list of the most talked about, most famous and influential first liners from the greatest novels of all time! I hope you've read at least one, if not more, of the books listed below. If you haven't, I'll encourage you to pick one today!


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

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."
-- Charles Dickens: A Tale Of Two Cities

"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."
-- J.D Salinger: The Catcher In The Rye

"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.
-- F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin."
-- Franz Kafka: Metamorphosis

"Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress."
-- George Eliot: Middlemarch


"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta."
-- Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

"It was the day my grandmother exploded."
-- Iain Banks: The Crow Road

"Mother died today. Or maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure."
-- Albert Camus: The Stranger

"This is the saddest story I have ever heard."
-- Ford Madox Ford: The Good Soldier

"Once an angry man dragged his father along the ground through his own orchard. 'Stop!' cried the groaning old man at last, 'Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree.'"
-- Gertrude Stein: The Making of Americans

"The moment one learns English, complications set in."
-- Felipe Alfau: Chromos

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."
-- C. S. Lewis: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

"It was a pleasure to burn."
-- Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451

"What if this young woman, who writes such bad poems, in competition with her husband, whose poems are equally bad, should stretch her remarkably long and well-made legs out before you, so that her skirt slips up to the tops of her stockings?"
-- Gilbert Sorrentino: Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things

"Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person."
-- Anne Tyler: Back When We Were Grownups

There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.
- P.G. Wodehouse
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Content copyright © 2014 by Ije Kanu. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Ije Kanu. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Ije Kanu for details.

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