I've been meaning to write about favorite, effective first sentences of novels and stories I enjoy. Last night, my re-reading of the shorter Sherlock Holmes stories reached "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax," and I read
" 'But why Turkish?' asked Mr. Sherlock Holmes, gazing fixedly at my boots."
(From "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax," 1911, in "His Last Bow" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.)
With that, I knew it was time to post a few of my favorite openers. Of course, "last night" is a clue to one of my favorites, even if you're not reading this the day after I got the idea. Here's the sentence:
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."
(From "Rebecca," 1938, by Daphne du Maurier.)
That sentence alone makes "Rebecca" a favorite; even though it's full of mysterious emotion that make a great story, it grabs me immediately. Who are you? Where's Manderley? Again -- what happened the first time?
But while "Rebecca" is a wonderfully spooky distraction, sometimes what I need is a retreat. Morris L. West's books are great that way. I save one until I can agree with its opening:
"Suddenly I was sick of the savagery of the world."
(From "Summer of the Red Wolf, 1971, by Morris L. West.)
But not all of my favorite opening sentences come from favorite novels. One, from a novella collection, wastes no time getting me involved -- and wondering about boundaries in my own life:
"In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing."
(From the title story in "A River Runs Through It and Other Stories," 1976, by Norman MacLean.)
Of course, you didn't think you'd get away without more Conan Doyle, did you? Here's the opening from my favorite short story, period:
"It was in the spring of the year 1894 that all London was interested, and the fashionable world dismayed, by the murder of the Honourable Ronald Adair under most unusual and inexplicable circumstances."
(From "The Adventure of the Empty House," 1903, in "The Return of Sherlock Holmes," by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.)
Here's the opening to a much more recent series of books -- good books that led to good television:
"Canon Sidney Chambers had never intended to become a detective."
(From "Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death," 2012, by James Runcie.)
Sidney did become a detective, in multiple books and the TV series "Grantchester."