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
2. At dawn in an outlying district of Warsaw, sunlight swarmed around the trunks of blooming linden trees and crept up the white walls of a 1930s stucco and glass villa where the zoo director and his wife slept in a bed crafted from white birch, a pale wood used in canoes, tongue depressors, and Windsor chairs.
—Diane Ackerman, The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story (2007)
3. This is my story of what happened.
—Hillary Rodham Clinton, What Happened (2017)
4. On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff’s edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross.
—M. L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans (2012) [Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist]
5. In the early 1850s, few pedestrians strolling past the house on H Street in Washington, near the White House, realized that the ancient widow seated by the window, knitting and arranging flowers, was the last surviving link to the glory days of the early republic.
—Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (2004) [George Washington Book Prize]
6. The first time Caesar approached Cora about running north, she said no.
—Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (2016) [Man Booker longlist, National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize]
7. When the train stopped I stumbled out, nudging and kicking the kitbag before me.
—J.L. Carr, A Month in the Country (1980) [Man Booker shortlist]
8. Henry and I dug the hole seven feet deep.
—Hillary Jordan, Mudbound (2008) [PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction]
9. The method of laying out a corpse in Missouri sure took the proverbial cake.
—Sebastian Barry, Days Without End (2016) [Man Booker longlist, Costa Book of the Year]
10. On the rare nights that she sleeps, she is back in the skin of the woman from before.
—Emma Flint, Little Deaths (2017) [Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist]
11. The night Effia Otcher was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through the woods just outside her father’s compound.
—Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing (2016)
12. Each night, our city dreamed of danger, crying out for help I could not give.
—Fran Wilde, Horizon (2017)
Baker’s Dozen Holiday Travel Bonus: Isma was going to miss her flight.
—Kamila Shamsie, Home Fire (2017) [Man Booker longlist]
Fourteen opening lines so glorious they could practically be a sonnet to the woman in question:
Years later, when she had gone and was no longer part of their lives, the thing they remembered about her was her smile. Coloring and features were indistinct, hazy in memory. The eyes, surely, were blue—but they could have been green or grey. And the hair, knotted in the Grecian fashion piled high on top of the head in curls, might have been chestnut or light brown. The nose was anything but Grecian—that was a certainty, for it pointed to heaven; and the actual shape of the mouth had never seemed important—not at the time, or now.
The essence of what had been lay in the smile. It began at the left corner of the mouth and hovered momentarily, mocking without discrimination those she loved most—including her own family—and those she despised. And, while they waited uneasily, expecting a blast of sarcasm or the snub direct, the smile spread to the eyes, transfiguring the whole face, lighting it to gaiety. Reprieved, they basked in the warmth and shared the folly, and there was no intellectual pose in the laugh that followed, ribald, riotous, cockney, straight from the belly.
This was what they remembered in after years. The rest was forgotten. Forgotten the lies, the deceit, the sudden bursts of temper. Forgotten the wild extravagance, the absurd generosity, the vitriolic tongue. Only the warmth remained, and the love of living.
—Daphne du Maurier, Mary Anne (1954)
Rugby World Cup 15-Man Bonus Round: So there were kookaburras here.
—Charlotte Wood, The Natural Way of Things (2016)
Congrats to Teresa who guessed three of these correctly (and two before any hints)!
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 December.