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. He rode into our valley in the summer of ’89.
—Jack Schaefer, Shane (1949)
2. Eilis Lacey, sitting at the window of the upstairs living room in the house on Friary Street, noticed her sister walking briskly from work.
—Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn (2009) [Costa Book Award, Man Booker Prize longlist]
3. When it became common knowledge that the great writer Prétextat Tach would die within two months or so, journalists from around the world requested private interviews with the eighty-year-old gentleman.
—Amélie Nothomb, Hygiène de l’assassin (Hygiene and the Assassin) (1992) [Prix Alain-Fournier]
4. The city that Sunday morning was quiet. Those millions of New Yorkers who, by need or preference, remain in town over a summer week-end had been crushed spiritless by humidity. Over the island hung a fog that smelled and felt like water in which too many soda-water glasses have been washed.
—Vera Caspary, Laura (1942)
5. Floating upward through a confusion of dreams and memory, curving like a trout through the rings of previous risings, I surface. My eyes open. I am awake.
—Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety (1987)
6. It was going to be the sale of the century.
—Hannah Rothschild, The Improbability of Love (2015) [Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist]
7. Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.
—Naomi Novik, Uprooted (2015) [Nebula Award, Hugo Award nominee]
8. The church is blowing a sad windblown ‘Kathleen’ on the bells in the skid row slums as I wake up all woebegone and goopy, groaning from another drinking bout and groaning most of all because I’d ruined my ‘secret return’ to San Francisco by getting silly drunk while hiding in the alleys with bums and then marching forth into North Beach to see everybody altho Lorenz Monsanto and I’d exchanged huge letters outlining how I would sneak in quietly, call him on the phone using a code name like Adam Yulch or Lalagy Pulvertaft (also writers) and then he would secretly drive me to his cabin in the Big Sur woods where I would be alone and undisturbed for six weeks just chopping wood, drawing water, writing, sleeping, hiking, etc., etc.
—Jack Kerouac, Big Sur (1962)
9. For a long time, my mother wasn’t dead yet.
—Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn (2016)
10. My dear Brother, I can no longer refuse myself the pleasure of profitting by your kind invitation when we last parted, of spending some weeks with you at Churchill, & therefore, if quiet convenient to you & Mrs. Vernon to receive me at present, I shall hope within a few days to be introduced to a Sister whom I have so long desired to be acquainted with.
—Jane Austen, Lady Susan (circa 1794) [adapted by Whit Stillman as Love & Friendship in 2016]
11. The stranger came early in February one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking as it seemed from Bramblehurst railway station and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand.
—H.G. Wells, The Invisible Man (1897)
12. The intense interest aroused in the public by what was known at the time as “The Styles Case” has now somewhat subsided.
—Agatha Christie, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)
Baker’s Dozen Holiday Bonus: My name, in those days, was Susan Trinder. People called me Sue. I know the year I was born in, but for many years I did not know the date, and took my birthday at Christmas.
—Sarah Waters, Fingersmith (2002) [Man Booker Prize nominee; Orange Prize shortlist; adapted by Park Chan-wook as The Handmaiden in 2016]
Double-Secret-Probation Bonus Round: Messenger birds launched as one flock from the council platform. Black bodies studded the blue sky in a cloud of purpose.
—Fran Wilde, Cloudbound (2016)
Congrats to Dana who guessed three of these correctly!
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 the month.