The importance of first lines

Charlie's Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. Picture: David Sillitoe

The opening lines of a book can determine whether you want to keep reading or shelve it to move onto something else. Of course, it won't necessarily determine the worth of an entire novel but having a memorable opening sure does help. Here are some of my favorites:

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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

"I am the recording angel, doomed to watch."
-The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian

"All this happened, more or less."
-Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again."
-Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

What are your favorites?

From The Guardian:

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but they didn't say anything about opening lines, which are surely fair game. For it seems to me that if the author can't take the trouble, or hasn't got the nous, to sculpt those words from which all the rest flow, then they probably won't have taken the trouble in all those other key moments of the text when the interpretative pressure is at its highest, when the duty to capture a whole fictional world in a single breath is at its most pressing. Screw up the opening, screw up the book. Like chess, it's really that simple.

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