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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Famous (But Not Always Fabulous) First Lines

Happy Tuesday, everyone!  How are things going?  Did you do anything fun for Memorial Day?  We had a small family BBQ/swim party to celebrate the holiday and my daughter's graduation from high school last week.  Warning, proud mom bragging ahead:  The little smartie ended up 10th in her class of 730 seniors.  We're super proud of her hard work.  She'll be attending a state university on a four-year, full-ride, Arizona-based scholarship.  Anyway, having a crowd of people at my house sitting elbow-to-elbow (social distancing is tough while playing game after rousing game of Dilbert Corporate Shuffle) was a little weird, but it was also good to be around family again. 

Speaking of family, I always take a moment on Memorial Day to remember the men (we haven't had any female soldiers, although our military wives definitely deserve a shout-out) from my family who have served and sacrificed for this country.  My ancestors have served in nearly every war involving the U.S., with deaths in all, but this is the guy I've heard the most about throughout my life:

My 22-year-old Uncle Joe (the man on the left) was killed in action in Vietnam on March 5, 1967, when he saved several members of his platoon and took the most direct hit from the land mine that threatened them all.  His bravery and sacrifice deserve to be remembered and honored.  R.I.P. to my family's favorite hero.

On a lighter note, it's time for Top Ten Tuesday, my favorite bookish meme.  It's always a good time, so I definitely encourage you to participate.  Click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl for all the details.  Today's topic is a fun one:  Top Ten Opening Lines.  You can talk about book openers that you love or hate; those that made you laugh, cry, think; or whatever.  I love a great opening line as much as the next reader, but my memory is terrible so the only one that comes quickly to mind is "It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times."  So, I decided to use Google to check out the first lines of ten of my all-time favorite novels.  Funny enough, most of them aren't that intriguing, profound, or memorable at all!  Some of them you will no doubt recognize; others not so much.  Hint:  half of them are from traditional American or Canadian classics, while the other half are more modern. 

Top Ten Opening Lines From Some of My All-Time Favorite Novels:

1.  "When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow."

2.  "The librarian and her mule spotted it at the same time."

3.  "If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are."

4.  "'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,'" grumbled Jo, lying on the rug. 

5.  "Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies' eardrops, and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde's Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run  past Mrs. Rachel Lynde's door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof."  

6.  "Marley was dead, to begin with."

7.  "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."

8.  "Nothing endures, not a tree, not love, not even a death by violence."

9.  "Mae Mobley was born on a early Sunday morning in August, 1960."

10.  "I want something of hers."


1.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
4.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
5.  Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
6.  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
7.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
8.  A Separate Peace by John Knowles

How'd you do?  How about you—what are your favorite (or least favorite or whatever) first lines?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I'll return the favor on yours.

Happy TTT!


  1. Congratulations to your daughter! Definitely something to brag about. My family had a presence in all the wars too. My great uncle stormed the beach at Normandy. He was a paratrooper, and was later killed in France trying to help a woman during a domestic dispute.

    Some great opening lines up there, and popular too. I saw quite a few of these today.

    1. Oh my goodness, your poor uncle! It's been interesting researching the war experiences of my ancestors. There are some amazingly interesting and heartbreaking stories out there.

      Yeah, I chose pretty classic opening lines today. I was surprised, though, that most of them were so humdrum.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Sam!

  2. Congrats on your daughter's graduation! I know how much work it takes to come out on top of a class that large!

    1. Right? It's super competitive! I'm amazed at the things high schoolers do these days - creating businesses and non-profits, all kinds of charitable work, organizing events, etc. AND their homework. Amazing! My classmates and I were not that ambitious back in the day :)

      Thanks for stopping by, Ethan!

  3. I knew #1 right away withoug a doubt.

    #4 - I don't know why I remember that line so much when I don't even remember if I read that book or not.

    #5 - As soon as I read 'Mrs. Rachel Lynde' I knew what that book is.

    I actually knew most of these except #2, 3, 8, 9 and #10 even though I did read that book.

    I don't have a good memory and I must admit, most of my favorite books have dull first lines. Books with great first lines does not necessary mean it's a great book but a dull first line does not mean a bad book so it really depends on you, I guess.

    Have a lovely day.

    1. That's what I realized, too. Some of the novels I consider to be the best ever written have really so-so first lines. I've also read books that had great first lines, but not a lot of substance beyond that. It just goes to show that you can't judge a book by its first line!

      Thanks for coming by, Lissa!

  4. Replies
    1. Ha ha. I wouldn't have recognized all of them either and these are some of my favorite novels!

      Thanks for stopping by, Elise!

  5. Congrats to your daughter! That's awesome.
    And your opening lines are great...I recognized all but #3 and #10. :)

    1. I'm not surprised at all, Lark! You're like my literary soul sister :)

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Lark!

  6. Congratulations to your daughter! That is quite an accomplishment! Love your list, although I have to be honest - I didn't get many of them. Just Harry Potter and A Christmas Carol. Just means I need to read more!

    Thanks for visiting my blog today!

    1. Ha ha. What it means, I think, is that even though some of these books are considered to be the best novels ever written, some of their opening lines are not great. They're not very memorable at all!

      Thanks for coming by, Denise!

  7. Great post. Congratulations to your daughter and a huge thank you to your family who served. I liked your little guessing game. I have read 8 of these books, guessed 6 of them by the first line, so not too shabby. Have a great day Susan.

    1. Thanks, Carla! It's sobering to look at my family history and see how many of my ancestors served. Some of them were career soldiers and some of them were drafted or served because that was the thing to do at the time. Whatever their motivation, I'm proud of their service and saddened by the loss of those who died. My uncle was so young when he died - it makes me sad.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the guessing game. You aced it, too. Good job!

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Carla!

  8. Congrats to your daughter, that's fantastic!! Also, love how you set this post up as a sort of Q&A!

    1. I love bookish guessing games :) It's fun to try to figure out a book by its first line. Some are super obvious. Some not at all!

      Thanks for stopping by, Holly!

  9. I only got 2...the most obvious ones!

    1. Ha ha. Well, a couple of them were pretty obscure!

      Thanks for coming by!

  10. Your Uncle Joe is a real hero. 💔💔💔 I honor his service.

    1. Thank you! He really is. I love hearing stories about him. I wish I had a chance to know him :(

  11. That librarian and mule one makes me laugh. It's interesting for sure!

    1. You really need the rest of the paragraph to understand because what they see is ... not pleasant :( It does make you want to read on, doesn't it?

      Thanks for coming by, Deanna!

  12. Congratulations to your daughter!! That is awesome..
    My son is a junior in high school this year and looking forward to senior year while wondering how college applications are really going to work out..
    And love how you made up the quiz... I recognized the ones I had read (and yet to read #3, 8, 10).. And I loved The Bookwoman too..

    1. The application process is SO stressful! I can't believe how much it cost, for one thing. I also don't understand how my daughter didn't get into her dream colleges, but had other universities basically offering to pay her to attend them. It's so crazy. Good luck to your son! It's great hat he's already thinking about college in junior high.

      Glad you enjoyed the quiz. It was fun to put together :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

  13. I just read Little Women, and it was so good! I adore the opening line :)

    1. Isn't it? I'm glad you enjoyed it. The opening line is very indicative of the novel as a whole, isn't it?

      Thanks for coming by, Emelie!

  14. Love these. I kinda wish as a kid I had read the Green Gables books- they sound delightful!

    1. To be honest, I've only ever read the first one. I need to continue with the series! ANNE OF GREEN GABLES is a delightful book. Just be forewarned - the first "line" is pretty typical of Montgomery's writing. She loves to describe EVERYTHING :)

      Thanks for stopping by, Greg!

  15. Interesting quotes. My favourites are probably 2 and 8.

    Thanks for visiting my TTT earlier.

    1. I thought #8 was interesting as well. I read A SEPARATE PEACE back in college (maybe high school?) and I loved it. I need to revisit it sometime soon.

      Thanks for coming by, Marianne!

  16. Congratulations to your daughter! She did a great job.

    And I love the opening line of Anne of Green Gables. It frames that story perfectly.

    My TTT .

    1. Thanks! We're very proud of her :)

      THE ANNE OF GREEN GABLES one certainly gives you a taste of what is to come! YA books aren't written like that anymore, so I don't see kids reading it nowadays. It's such a great book, though!

      Thanks for stopping by, Lydia!

  17. I recognized several of these. I hadn't thought of L.M. Montgomery as so wordy until I read that opening line again.

    #2 & #3 really grabbed me.

    1. Ha ha. She is VERY wordy. ANNE is still very much worth the read, though! It just has an old-fashioned storytelling style.

      Thanks for coming by!

  18. What a fun way to structure your post. I got 5/10, and I'm pretty excited that one of those was #2, given that it was an educated guess and I haven't read it.

    That is incredible about your daughter (my graduating class was about that size too, but so many people regularly got a 4.0 that the school's policy was simpy to acknowledge the top 10%; they stopped identifying valedictorian well over 20 years ago). The graduating rank is impressive enough on its own, but a full ride scholarship?? Wow!

    Very nice Memorial Day mention as well. Nobody in my family has done military service since my grandparents' generation, either WWII or Korea, and it was never really talked about -- I only know from some photos.

    1. Nice work! Honestly, if I hadn't chosen these first lines myself, I'm not sure how many I would have gotten right.

      My graduating class was around 100 people and there were only about 500 students in the whole high school! My kids are always shocked when they hear that :)

      My maternal grandfather served in WWII and was really traumatized by it. He didn't talk about his war experiences and he couldn't stand to watch war movies or even have play guns in his house. His son still enlisted and died in Vietnam. War has taken a big toll on my family. I consider these men heroes and am proud of their service, but I still wish they had never had to do it :(

      Thanks for coming by, RS!

  19. Yes, love the iconic line from Little Women!!

    1. It's SOO Jo, isn't it? She's my favorite!

      Thanks for stopping by, Nushu!

  20. Hey Susan, great to see we both picked Harry Potter and Little Women for our lists. I think A Christmas Carol is a brilliant choice, too - I only didn't go for it as I already had a Dickens' novel on my list.

    1. Great minds think alike! A CHRISTMAS CAROL is the only Dickens novel I've actually read :)

      Thanks for coming by, Jessica!

  21. I loved the opening line from Little Women.

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday.

    1. Me, too. It's iconic, even if it's not a terribly amazing sentence.

      Thanks for coming by, Astilbe!

  22. Great post, Susan. I recognized about 5 (#4,5,6,7,9) of the first lines, although I've read 8 out of 10 of the books (all except #2 and #10) but some of them so long ago I didn't recognize the first line!

    Here's a very memorable first line: "Where's Papa going with that ax?"

    I'm sure you can name that book right away! :-)

    Hope you're well, dear friend!

    1. Like I said earlier, I don't know how many of these I would have recognized if I hadn't searched them up myself! Not all of them are super memorable.

      I do recognize the first line of CHARLOTTE'S WEB, but I've seen it on several TTT lists. If I hadn't, I don't know if I would have recognized it immediately.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, my friend!

  23. Forgot to say congrats to your daughter! Her accomplishments are awesome!!! You must be very proud and very excited for her!

    And a pool party with people, I'm so envious! We're still locked down here in New Mexico with deaths at .00036 percent. 90% of the state has 0 deaths and a handful of cases, I'm going stir-crazy after almost 3 months!

    Anyway, I digress . . . my grandfather and great-grandfather both served in WWI for England before immigrating to the USA a couple years later. England was getting so bombarded they were calling up everyone so my great-grandfather also served, leaving his wife and 6 other children at home. Thankfully, they both survived. My dad served in the army in the Korean War on the front lines setting up communication lines while under sniper fire and thankfully came home unscathed. Three months later he married my mom who waited for him. Then my baby brother served in the Navy in the Middle East for 25 years in the Navy (deployed overseas over and over again) until he died with brain tumors he probably contracted from equipment on the ship almost 8 years ago this Christmas. It's with pride but also a lot of emotion when we can remember them and honor them.

    For Memorial Day, we watched the WWII movie, "The Longest Day" (Amazon Prime/Netflix), a movie released in 1962 with a whole slew of big name actors. John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Sean Connery, Peter Lawford, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton, Eddie Albert, Paul Anka, etc. It's about the Normandy invasion and there was so much historical stuff about that invasion I had no idea about and I thought I knew quite a bit. Really well done and I read that the directors/producers made sure it was all historically accurate. Really well done - and the actors play actual people who were there. So I digress again . . . sorry!

    Take care! XOXO

    1. Arizona is slowly opening up, but I'm still a little leery. We haven't had any kind of get together since this whole thing began, so our Memorial Day party really was kind of a surreal experience!

      Wow, your family has a rich military background as well. I've been researching my mom's family a lot lately and every generation sent at least one man to war, starting with the Civil War (my Civil War ancestor never saw battle - he fell off a troop ship and drowned before getting to his assignment). It's an incredible legacy with some really fascinating stories. I agree - their stories fill me with both pride and a lot of emotion. I just can't imagine what those brave men and their families went through. Incredible.

      I've heard of THE LONGEST DAY, but I haven't seen it. Sounds excellent. Thanks for the rec!

  24. Congrats to your daughter!

    I managed to correctly guess three of those so I'll take that!

    1. Nice! Some of them are definitely tougher than others :)

      Thanks for coming by, Sarah!

  25. Big congrats to your daughter, Susan! What an accomplishment! Also, so poignant your tribute to your Uncle Joe. Loved your first lines and I even knew some of them...ha!

    1. Thanks, Kay! My mom and her twin sister really doted on their younger brother, so losing Joe was really hard on them. I've grown up hearing stories about him and his bravery. He's pretty much a legend in our family :)

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting!

  26. What fun!! I knew The Nightingale because I used that one too! I also knew Little Women and The Help!!

    1. I didn't remember THE NIGHTINGALE's opener until I Googled it, but it's a great line. Very thought-provoking.

      Thanks for stopping by, Leslie!

  27. How could I forget about that Dickens line? Killer opening...

    1. Dickens wrote some good ones, although I've never gotten further in A TALE OF TWO CITIES then its iconic "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ..." opener!

      Thanks for coming by!

  28. I only recognized three of the ten - and probably the easiest three in the whole list.

    My favorite opening line is from Pete Dexter's novel "Spooner." (I may have posted aabout this line before...that's how much I love it):

    "Spooner was born a few minutes previous to daybreak in the historic, honeysuckled little town of Millegeville, Georgia, in a makeshift delivery room put together in the waiting area of the medical offices of Dr. Emil Woods, across the street from and approximately in the crosshairs of a cluster of Confederate artillery pieces guarding the dog-spotted front lawn of the Greene Street Sons of the Confederacy Retirement Home."

    This one sentence, long as it is, sets the tone for the rest of the book perfectly.

    1. You have shared this opener before, but I agree - it's a good one. Very evocative. I like when the opening sentence/paragraph of a book really sets the tone. That way you know what you're getting right off the bat.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Sam!

  29. Hope you're doing well and staying safe. These are wonderful opening lines. I have been so swamped with work that no reading is happening. So frustrating

    1. Bummer! I hate it when work gets in the way of having fun :) I hope you get some time soon to get a little reading in.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Helen!

  30. Your Uncle Joe sounds like an amazing man. My family has been lucky in that while we have had people in basically every war they've all survived though I doubt they came back the same. Love seeing the Anne line! I must admit Anne of Green Gables isn't my favorite of the Anne books but that line just makes me so happy.

    1. Losing a loved one in a war is devastating, but I'm sure it's just as difficult to deal with veterans who survive but are plagued with PTSD. We've had both in our family.

      You know, I've only ever read the first Anne book. I own the complete series, I've just never moved on with it. I need to.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Katherine!


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