Without a doubt one of the most important elements of a book is the opening line and first chapter. Publishers crave an impressive and memorable opening line and often base their decision on whether to move forward with a manuscript depending on how well the first few chapters are written. Likewise, a powerful beginning sets the tone for the plot and story line and, as the first point of contact with the reader, a strong connection right from the start is vital.
As first impressions are essential, I wanted to share my thoughts on a few books that had a huge impact on me as a reader due to their powerful beginnings.
Lullaby / The Perfect Nanny – Leila Slimani
The baby is dead. It only took few seconds.
Leila Slimani paints a picture of horror and chaos in the opening chapter of Lullaby (published as The Perfect Nanny in USA). Although I ended up disliking this book for many reasons, the events revealed in the first chapter were shocking enough to pique my interest and encourage me to continue reading. The details in the first chapter almost feel too explicit and unnecessary at times but setting the scene with the murder and revealing snippets of the events building up to it is a very powerful technique which I felt worked extremely well in this book.
The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton
I forget everything between footsteps.
“Anna!” I finish shouting, snapping my mouth shut in surprise.
My mind has gone blank. I don’t know who Anna is or why I’m calling her name. I don’t even know how I got here…
The first chapter of The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is as intense and superb as the rest of the book. What makes it stand out is the precise choice of words and unique writing style that immediately transports the reader to the setting. I was impressed with so many aspects of this book and, although I read it almost over one year ago, the opening chapter stayed with me even to this today.
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
It was a pleasure to burn.It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and
The first few sentences emphasise the essence of this book by exploring the senses through the eyes of the main character. The writing is so powerful that I could almost feel the heat and blaze as I read the first chapter. It is arguably one of the most notorious opening lines in literature and rightfully so.
As a reader, I am immediately influenced by the first chapter of any book, sometimes almost subconsciously. Although I enjoy slow beginnings if the writing suits the genre of the book, unexpected opening lines or unforeseen events revealed in the first pages almost always convince me that the book I am about to read will be a hit and for that reason I will almost always prefer it to a slower beginning.
Do the first few paragraphs or chapters of a book have an impact on you as a reader? What are some of your favourite opening lines?