As promised, here are the answers to the “first lines” challenge I posted last week. Click here if you’d like to try to guess some of the books before reading the answers below.
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
—The opening of Rebecca (1938) by Daphne du Maurier
1. On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide—it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese—the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope.
—Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides (1993)
2. I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte.
—Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest (1929)
3. My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood.
—Shirley Jackson, We have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)
4. A Frenchman named Chamfort, who should have known better, once said that chance was a nickname for Providence.
—Eric Ambler, A Coffin for Dimitrios (1939)
5. Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.
—Graham Greene, Brighton Rock (1938)
6. “The Signora had no business to do it,” said Miss Bartlett, “no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a courtyard, and a long way apart.
—E.M. Forster, A Room with a View (1908)
7. I might have been ten, eleven years old—I cannot say for certain—when my first master died.
—Esi Edugyan, Washington Black (2018) [Man Booker shortlist]
8. When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her.
—Ann Patchett, Bel Canto (2001) [Orange Prize; PEN/Faulkner Award]
9. One night I was sitting on the bed in my hotel room on Bunker Hill, down in the very middle of Los Angeles.
—John Fante, Ask the Dust (1939)
10. If you’re like me, the Trump presidency has turned you into a light sleeper.
—Rick Wilson, Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever (2018)
11. That summer I hunted the serial killer at night from my daughter’s playroom.
—Michelle McNamara, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer (2018)
12. It was a dark and stormy night.
—Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time (1962) [Newbery Medal]
Baker’s Dozen “Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams” Holiday Bonus: Alexa Monroe walked into the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco that Thursday night wearing her favorite red heels, jittery from coffee, and with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne in her purse.
—Jasmine Guillory, The Wedding Date (2018)
Double-Secret-Probation Bonus Round: Today I dropped my laptop on the concrete floor of a bar built on the beach. It was tucked under my arm and slid out of its black rubber sheath (designed like an envelope), landing screen side down.
—Deborah Levy, Hot Milk (2016) [Man Booker shortlist]
Congrats to Sarah and Marissa who each guessed two of these correctly!
I tried to have a range of degrees of difficulty this year and was happy to see about half of these titles guessed fairly quickly. Which one(s) are you kicking yourself over?
Look for reviews and comments on these selections and more in my traditional year-end round-up post at the end of next month.