Just last week a beautiful high school student and her mom came to me to buy a copy of Moby Dick. I mentioned that according to American Book Review, the opening line of Melville's book is considered the best opening line from a novel. I said that my own personal favorite opening line was from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which landed on the same list at number two. The girl smiled, blushed madly, and said she was working on a scene for a one-act play competition based on it, her favorite novel.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
There, in one line, is the essence of Jane Austen. The writing is crisp, witty, and that you "get" such a strong sense of voice from such a few words points to her skill.
My second favorite opening line was written by Margaret Mitchell: "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were." It's a favorite line because not only is it a striking bit of prose, but it's so memorable. I've kept it in my mind since first reading Gone with the Wind in the fifth grade.
I like to do things in threes, so here's the opening that sits in third place on my list. Talk about threes...it's not actually the first line from Christopher Moore's Lamb, it's the third:"The first time I saw the man who would save the world he was sitting near the central well in Nazareth with a lizard hanging out of his mouth."
Thanks to Gail Carriger for tweeting about this meme, created on the never evil blog, which ends as follows:
I'd like you, nay I DEMAND you, to pimp this post everywhere and anywhere. After all the more favourite first lines we get the merrier! How fun would it be to run into a comment quoting a line you thought you were the only one to love? And wouldn't it be great if some of these opening lines inspire people to check out the book out of curiosity? So please help the cause.