An Index of Opening Lines

This page is in no way a useful index, but it’s the sort of thing I like perusing myself. The first line of each book is linked to the review from that book. These are the first lines of the main text, skipping over any prefatory material. I’ve also skipped stage directions in plays. For anthologies, I’ve used the first line of the first poem, story, or essay. Not every book I’ve read is here; I only started doing this three years after I started the reading project, so the only first lines from the books I read in 2014-2016 are from the books that I own (or the first page of which I could find on google books).

Ageless Vatu/ primeval source/ of creative forces/ ad infinitum

Anaibolafafawa was the village Big Man.

As I was born the umbilical cord tangled around my neck and I came into the world both arms flailing, unable to scream and thereby take in the air necessary to begin life outside of the womb, being garrotted by the very thing that had until that time succoured me and given me life.

Bastard, she’d think, looking out her back kitchen window.

“Boo, hoo! Ow, ow; Oh! oh! Me’ll die. Boo, hoo. The pain, the pain! Boo, hoo!” 

The burly man wearing an undersized yellow tee-shirt that accentuated his bulging biceps and chest cast a warning look at Sakaraia before he took hold of his hand and stamped it with the ‘pass in’ mark.

Cette nuit là — comme tant d’autres nuits si nombreuses qu’on n’y pouvait songer sans une confusion — Térii le Récitant marchait, à pas mesurés, tout au long des parvis inviolables.

Cheap perfume/ Six inch heels/ Skin-tight pants/ Civilized girl

Dear Rimini and Benedict, You didn’t deserve ill-humour and rebuff, and I had no right to send you off with empty hearts when all you were asking was to get to know your ‘father’.

Dinewan the emu, being the largest bird, was acknowledged as king by the other birds.

Everyone agreed that the day was just right for the picnic to Hanging Rock – a shimmering summer morning warm and still, with cicadas shrilling all through breakfast from the loquat trees outside the dining-room windows and bees murmuring above the pansies bordering the drive.

For thousands of years the Kanak peoples of New Caledonia have transmitted their values, history, customs, relationships, and collective wisdom from generation to generation through their oral traditions.

Fresh Spring breeze of fragrant moist air/ bubbling ever green/ and prolonging our breath/ my gardenia blossom upon the branch/ of the last flowering tree 

Fulbright has given me $20,000 to study sexual harassment among the Marawan people.

The hills are full of Irish people.

The hospital again, and the echo of my reluctant feet through the long, empty corridors.

I am a coffee broker, and I live at No. 37 Lauriergracht, Amsterdam.

I was born after World War II and was therefore spared the brutal Japanese occupation of East Timor.

I was fifty when I went to live alone on Suvarov, after thirty years of roaming the Pacific, and in this story I will try to describe my feelings, try to put into words what was, for me, the most remarkable and worthwhile experience of my whole life.

If taken in moderation, dear sister,/ there is nothing to equal/ the pleasure of taking a lover

If there was a bishop, my mother would have him to tea.

I’m writing a letter — the contents of which I’ll relate later on — as the golden glow of twilight illuminates the paper.

In a past inconceivably remote it must have been the peak of a volcano, jutting from the midst of a sea whose solitude was broken only by flocks of migrating birds, a pod of sperm whales lumbering down from the Austral ice fields, or the intangible things of the mythic world; the spirits of Storm, Fair Weather, Night, Day, and Dawn.

In a shaft on the Gravel Pits, a man had been buried alive.

In Poland’s deepest autumn, a tall young man in an expensive overcoat, double-breasted dinner jacket beneath it and — in the lapel of the dinner jacket — a large ornamental gold-on-black enamel swastika, emerged from a fashionable apartment block in Straszewskiego Street on the edge of the ancient centre of Cracow, and saw his chauffeur waiting with fuming breath by the open door of an enormous and, even in this blackened world, lustrous Adler limousine.

In the old days, in the years that have gone before us, the land and sea felt a great emptiness, a yearning.

It had rained nearly all day, and Tauilopepe Mauga had remained in the main fale plaiting sinnet.

It was a hot Thursday in the month of June 1990.

It was the first time I’d met the Purple Lady.

It’s a different sunlight — harsher, dustier, more ancient-looking — that enters courtrooms.

It’s only half an hour since someone — Robyn I think — said we should write everything down, and it’s only twenty-nine minutes since I got chosen, and for those twenty-nine minutes I’ve had everyone crowded around me gazing at the blank page and yelling ideas and advice.

“…like our bullock, Jack. Bugger’ll be on the old age pension before he’s killed.”

Lorsque Dieu commença la création du ciel et de la terre, la terre était déserte et vide, et la ténèbre à la surface de l’abîme.

Men had but one pair of primitive ancestors; they sprang from the vast heaven that exists above us, and the earth which lies beneath us.

My brother Jack does not come into the story straight away.

My people are Melanesians/ Have brown skin/ Fish in the sea/ Farm on the hills/ Live off the land

Nadi Airport, Fiji, 5 a.m.

A nation chants, But we know your story already.

No, please, how to stop it? How can I stop it?

La Nouvelle-Calédonie est une grande île en forme de fuseau ou de longue pirogue maori.

On December 8th, 1915, Meggie Cleary had her fourth birthday.

On Good Friday in 1981 Rujen Keju was the second one awake of fourteen clan members and eight family members in his Army-built, concrete blockhouse on the Marshallese island of Ebeye.

On the evening of the third of May, 1827, the garden of a large red-brick, bow-windowed mansion called North-end house, which, enclosed in spacious grounds, stands on the eastern height of Hampstead Heath, between Finchley Road and the Chestnut Avenue, was the scene of a domestic tragedy.

On the morning of my departure I stood by the open window with my trumpet to my ear, hoping to hear the thrush in Edie’s plum tree.

On Tuesday, February 12, 1805, at eleven o’clock a. m. the Port au Prince weighed anchor at Gravesend, made sail, and worked down the river.

People are not always kind, but the kind thing to say of Jenny was that she was simple.

That portion of Oceania whose mythology is both most is widely known and to which reference is most frequently made is undoubtedly Polynesia.

“There is a man here, miss, asking for your uncle,” said Rose.

There once was a big village.

There was a man who had a cross and his name was Macauley.

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around/ That the colt from old Regret had got away,/ And had joined the wild bush horses — he was worth a thousand pound,/ So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.

There was once an old man and an old woman.

They have said that we owe allegiance to Safety, that he is our Red Cross who will provide us with ointment and bandages for our wounds and remove the foreign ideas the glass beads of fantasy the bent hairpins of unreason embedded in our minds.

The twelve men congregated in the smoking room of the Crown Hotel gave the impression of a party accidentally met.

Unemployed at last!

When a woman doesn’t collect her man’s pay she gets zero francs because her man goes to the bar with his colleagues to celebrate the end of the week and you know how it is, eh?

When I came to Dili in 2007, the Hotel Timor was almost exclusively the preserve of what the Timorese call the malae, the foreigners.

When Jehovah created the Universe in six days and rested on the Seventh, He said it was good and that Man must so regulate his periods of work and rest.

When you lift your eyes landward from the sunburnt undulations of the Ra coast, you see the Nakauvadra mountain range rising nearly 1000 metres above you.

Will you look at us by the river!

With her trademark defense of a shrug and silence, the old woman snubbed the frown of village-gossip, which alerted her of the shocker.

With more than 28,000 people, Fa’a’ā has the largest population of any town in the Islands.

Very early morning.

“You have several alternatives Maduru” the Headmaster said.

You remember when we hurried home from the old bush school how we were sometimes startled by a bearded apparition, who smiled kindly down on us, and whom our mother introduced, as we raked off our hats, as “An old mate of your father’s on the diggings, Johnny.”