Tuesday, 3 May 2011


On 12 April 2011,The Orange Prize for Fiction announced the 2011 shortlist. The Prize, which is in its sixteenth year, celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world. 

These novels must be the perfect works to study effective opening sentences?

These are the Orange Prize for Fiction finalists' first sentences:

Memory Of Love ~ Aminatta Forna

On the iron-framed bed a single, scant sheet has moulded itself to the form of the human beneath.

Room ~ Emma Donoghue

Today I am five.

Grace Williams Says It Loud ~ Emma Henderson

A shadow made me start as my mother's face loomed towards me where I lay, eight months old, tongue-tied, spastic and flailing on the coarse rug.

Great House ~ Nichole Krauss

Talk to him.
Your Honour, in the winter of 1972 R and I broke up, or should I say he broke up with me.

The Tiger's Wife ~ Téa Obreht 

In my earliest memory , my grandfather is bald as a stone, and he takes me to see tigers.

Annabel ~ Kathleen Winter


Part One
Wayne Blake was born at the beginning of March, during the first signs of spring break-up of the ice - a time of great importance to Labradorians who hunted ducks for food - and he was born like most children in that place in 1968 surrounded by women his mother had known all her married life: Joan Martin, Elizabeth Gondie and Thomasina Baikie.

My investigation was flawed ;) I hedged my bets over whether the Nichole Krauss' first sentence counted - it looked like a subheading. And I should have left Kathleen Winter's first sentence as the single word of dialogue in her Prologue but I loved the opening sentence from the main body of the novel. ;)

What did I learn? 
There is no formula for writing the perfect notable opening. 

Despite my love of THE Jane Austin sentence, this is my favourite hook:

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. - C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)


  1. 3 May Bistritz.- Left Munich at 8.35 pm. On 1st May, arriveing at Vienna early the next morning; should have arrived at 6.46, but the train was ah hour late.

    The opening of Bram Stoker 'Dracula'

    It doesn't get me that excited. If I didn't know what the book was about I don't think I would bother to read on. :-)

    A great posting, Elaine

  2. Those are great. Interesting that you used two that are said by children.

  3. Hi Jarmara
    Thank you.:)
    I'm fighting off the need to do the full 6 things I know and don't know :D
    The opening doesn't hold the essence of the book but it does hold a flavour of the man who wrote the note - diary-like - informal - for himself of a very close friend - impatience - and his schedule. If I was a boy I'd be reaching for my atlas/maps to see which direction he was heading in ;)

    Hi Suzanne
    The Orange Prize list, I was compelled to use because the novels are current and acclaimed.
    I enjoyed the Narnia books and even though they are not my absolute favourite MG books that opening is so compelling.

  4. Yes, the two short sentences surprised me that they would qualify. I can't help but think the rest of the paragraph delivers and that seems unfair. But then, I'm not a judge and I'm rather glad I'm not.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

  5. Woah, funny that Kathleen Winter is in that list! I met her recently when she came to visit my college. She's super sweet!

    And I agree with you on The Dawn Treader opening. I didn't get that far into the Narnia books when I was little and now I'm thinking maybe it's about time I finished them ~ :p

    Thanks for these opening sentences. Very instructive. :)

  6. Hi Nancy
    The initial sentence has to draw the reader but I guess the other hundred or more pages needs to be full of wonderful sentences too.

    Hi Brigitte
    Wow! I envy you meeting Kathleen Winter. It is nice to hear she is such a lovely person.
    Isn't the voice at the start of Dawn Treader just fabulous. You could do a lot with that combination of command and humour. :)