These are some of my favorite first lines from novels. Some I’ve actually read, and some I just like the first lines. For another collection of first lines, Google “The American Book Review’s 100 Best First Lines” for their list.
(One notable “exclusion” from this list is the first line from Daniel Defoe’s, Robinson Crusoe which begins with an long and awful account of the origin of Crusoe and his name. As a child I liked the rest of the book, but I remember feeling a strong dislike for that first sentence and wondered if I should continue. I’m glad I did.)
- “Death had no good reason being out on a night like this.” – Jack Cavanaugh, The Guardians
- “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost
deserved it.” – C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- “Mother Died Today. or Maybe Yesterday. I Don’t Know.” – Albert Camus, The Stranger (translated by Stuart Gilbert)
- “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
- “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” – Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford
- “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” – George Orwell, 1984
- “Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
- “All children, except one, grow up.” – J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan
- “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possesion of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
- “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
And I saved the best for last…
- “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” – J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Gotta love that mere hint of something unusual about to happen to stir up curiosity. And the subtext suggests that Mr. and Mrs. Dursley will not be happy about it! This suggests conflict, but in a comical way because of the wording of the final four words. Pure reading pleasure!