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. It was about the beginning of September, 1664, that I, among the rest of my neighbours, heard, in ordinary discourse, that the plague was returned again in Holland; for it had been very violent there, and particularly at Amsterdam and Rotterdam, in the year 1663, whither, they say, it was brought, some said from Italy, others from the Levant, among some goods, which were brought home by their Turkey fleet; others said it was brought from Candia; others from Cyprus.
—Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year (1722)
2. Travellers crossing the wheat-yellow plains to Dungatar would first notice a dark blot shimmering at the edge of the flatness.
—Rosalie Ham, The Dressmaker (2000)
3. The coach from Ellsworth to Butcher’s Crossing was a dougherty that had been converted to carry passengers and small freight.
—John Williams, Butcher’s Crossing (1960)
4. The education bestowed on Flora Poste by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged; and when they died within a few weeks of one another during the annual epidemic of the influenza or Spanish Plague which occurred in her twentieth year, she was discovered to possess every art and grace save that of earning her own living.
—Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm (1932)
5. A man with small eyes and a ginger moustache came and spoke to me when I was thinking of something else.
—Barbara Comyns, The Vet’s Daughter (1959)
6. “Linnet Ridgeway!”
—Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile (1937)
7. Charles Monet was a loner.
—Richard Preston, The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus (1994)
8. I am writing this at the behest of my advocate, Mr Andrew Sinclair, who since my incarceration here in Inverness has treated me with a degree of civility I in no way deserve.
—Graeme Macrae Burnet, His Bloody Project (2015) [Man Booker shortlist]
9. Our house is old, and noisy, and full.
—Shirley Jackson, Life Among the Savages (1953)
10. The weather falls more gently on some places than on others, the world looks down more paternally on some people.
—Shirley Jackson, The Road Through the Wall (1948)
11. London, the crouching monster, like every other monster has to breathe, and breathe it does in its own obscure, malignant way.
—Patrick Hamilton, The Slaves of Solitude (1947)
12. By the time Edwin Rist stepped off the train onto the platform at Tring, forty miles north of London, it was already quite late.
—Kirk Wallace Johnson, The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century (2018)
Baker’s Dozen Holiday Bonus: In the time before steamships, or then more frequently than now, a stroller along the docks of any considerable seaport would occasionally have his attention arrested by a group of bronzed mariners, man-of-war’s men or merchant sailors in holiday attire, ashore on liberty.
—Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Sailor (1924)
Double-Secret-Probation Bonus Round: The one opened the door with a latch-key and went in, followed by a young fellow who awkwardly removed his cap. He wore rough clothes that smacked of the sea, and he was manifestly out of place in the spacious hall in which he found himself.
—Jack London, Martin Eden (1909)
Congrats to Marissa who guessed 2 of these correctly right off the bat and then worked those hints to get 3 more titles!
Which one(s) are you kicking yourself over? Which one was easiest? Which one was impossible? Which one is the “best” first line?
Look for reviews and comments on these selections and more in my traditional year-end round-up post at the end of next month.