Books: The best beginnings

With spring upon us and Easter fast approaching, there is no better time for thinking about fresh starts and new beginnings. Some of the most important beginnings us English students encounter are the ones in books; they can encompass entire themes and characters in just a few short sentences.

That considered, here are seven of my favourite and most memorable book openings!

The Kite Runner

I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.

The weight of The Kite Runner’s opening line is only felt once you’ve lived through the experiences with Amir and Hassan; two best friends growing up in Kabul, whose lives become changed forever.

The Great Gatsby

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.”

This classic is definitely one of the most famous for its openings. If you’ve never encountered it, this is something you should be doing with your Easter! F. Scott Fitzgerald’s traditional tale of love, money and dreams fits perfectly with the theme of reinvention this holiday forces on us.

Pride and Prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Again, if you’ve never seen this one, come out from your rock and read this book please. This line speaks volumes about society’s contemporary attitudes towards relationships, and sets up perfectly the story of Elizabeth Bennett and the illusive Mr. Darcy.

Harry Potter

Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.

Of course, J.K Rowling’s sense of humour is thrust upon the reader in the very opening line. Considering some of the surprisingly darker themes which are covered in the Harry Potter novels, a touch of light humour is vital, and Mr and Mrs Dursley are some of the main characters which encompass this.  

The Bell Jar

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel depicts the struggle of Esther as she deals with being diagnosed as clinically depressed. The ‘queer, sultry summer’ is particularly reminiscent of the bell jar which stifles and isolates Esther.

This moving and poignant text is summarized in this sentence, as Esther’s tumultuous journey begins.

On the Road

I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up.  I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead.  With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road.

Studying Kerouac for my dissertation, you might have thought I’d be sick of the sight of him. However, it’s a testament to the novelist when I still can’t get enough of On the Road after studying it relentlessly for months!

The novel begins with Sal Paradise meeting Dean Moriarty, and ends with Dean’s departure. This cyclical nature of experiences on the road can’t be missed, and anyone soon to finish university will be able to relate to the anticipation felt in the need to travel.

Fight Club

Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die.

This epic novel may have been slightly overshadowed by its film counterpart, but is not to be neglected.

This dramatic opening engulfs you in the events of Fight Club, so much so that you almost forget what is to come. However, the ending is just as dramatic as the beginning, and if you’re not familiar with it already, why not?


How do your favourite books begin? Have your say in the comments below