Thursday 22 April 2010

“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”

Work: A Story of Experience by Louisa May Alcott ~ excerpt from Chapter II

“Mrs. Stuart, though in her most regal array, seemed to have left her dignity downstairs with her opera cloak, for with skirts gathered loosely about her, tiara all askew, and face full of fear and anger, she stood upon a chair and scolded like any shrew.

The comic overpowered the tragic, and being a little hysterical with her sudden alarm, Christie broke into a peal of laughter that sealed her fate. “Look at her! look at her!" cried Mrs. Stuart gesticulating on her perch as if about to fly. "She has been at the wine, or lost her wits. She must go, Horatio, she must go! I cannot have my nerves battered by such dreadful scenes. She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”


L'Arlesienne, Vincent van GoghL'Arlesienne ~ Vincent van Gogh  

I know I said that I’d continue with more nostalgic pictorial ramblings after my How can you buy the sky? post, but first I have a challenge – and a little prize - for you. 

I’ve been reading voraciously recently because I have time at the moment, mainly due to long hours of enforced hospital visits but mostly because I just love books with a passion.  Always have – ever since the very beginning!   But not only have I been reading, I’ve been able to snatch moments to write as well which led me to think about great opening lines.  You know what I mean – the brilliantly clever first sentence which slaps you right upside your brain and that’s it…..the beginning of a marvellously mercurial ride into another world?


Unless you are blessed with an extraordinarily retentive memory, I don’t think anyone can remember, word for word, ALL the opening lines that have dazzled and held one.  I certainly couldn’t so I had to do a bit of shuffling through my collection of books (and some library research) to help remember correctly those gems which have made me take flight.  Here are 15 of them and the challenge is for you to put the right lines with the right book from the multiple choices.  Instead of taking up yards of space in the comments section, how about you email your answers to me at and I’ll announce the winning genius - ie. very smart person with the most correct answers  - in a blog post this time next week – Thursday, April 29th.  

The prize is a wonderfully whacky book by Keri Smith called Living Out Loud: Activities to Fuel a Creative Life.   Georgie (wise daughter) gave it to me recently and I love it so much I bought 2 or 3 extra copies for friends.  Click on the cover to read more:


Okay, this is it - An Aerial Armadillo’s Opening Lines Quiz (Hmm, doesn’t that looks good in print?)  Don’t go blowing brain cells, guys, this really is just for fun!  Print it out and do it in the bath or under a tree with a glass of the good grape……



“On they went, singing 'Rest Eternal', and whenever they stopped, the sound of their feet, the horses and the gusts of wind seemed to carry on their singing.”

a) Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

b) War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

c) The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

d) Flashman at the Charge by George Macdonald Fraser


“To the Red Country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.”

a) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

b) Paradise by Toni Morrison

c) Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

d) The Innocent Man by John Grisham


"The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel."

a) Neuromancer by William Gibson

b) Cities of the Red Night by William Burroughs

c) Fahrenheit 451 by Kurt Vonnegut

d) 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke


“When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to chinks, and diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.”

a) Tess of the D'Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy

b) Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

c) Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

d) The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot


“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like 'I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive . . .' And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down..”

a) On the Road by Jack Kerouac

b) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson

c) The Books of Albion: The Collected Writings of Peter Doherty

d) The Naked Lunch by William Burroughs


“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

a) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis

b) The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

c) The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley

d) The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl


"I did not kill my father, but I sometimes felt I had helped him on his way."

a) The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan

b) Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

c) Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

d) The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky


"We slept in what had once been the gymnasium."

a) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

b) Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

c) The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

d) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling


“It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.”

a) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

b) The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

c) The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

d) The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy


"I was born in the city of Bombay...once upon a time."

a) Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

b) The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

c) A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

d) A House for Mr Biswas by VS Naipaul


“It was the day my grandmother exploded.”

a) George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

b) The Crow Road by Iain Banks

c) Horrid Henry's Revenge by Francesca Simon

d) Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson


“Take my camel, dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass."

a) The Ukimwi Road by Dervla Murphy

b) The Towers of Trebizon by Rose Macaulay

c) East is West by Freya Stark

d) Escaping The Winter by Anne Mustoe


“The play – for which Briony had designed the posters, programmes, and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crepe paper – was written by her in a two –day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch.”

a) The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

b) The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

c) Atonement by Ian McEwan

d) Wonder Boys by Michal Chabon


"The year was 1795. George III was dabbing the walls of Windsor Castle with his own spittle, the Notables were botching things in France, Goya was deaf, De Quincey a depraved pre-adolescent.”

a) Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

b) Villa Incognito by Tim Robbins

c) One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

d) Water Music by T.C. Boyle


“I write this sitting at the kitchen sink”

a) Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

b) The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

c) The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley

d) I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith


Alexander Deineka.Girl Reading ~ Alexander Deineka.


Enjoy your very own marvellously mercurial rides this weekend, dear blog pals!  Perhaps if you do have a moment, you could also tell us about your own favourite opening lines?


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh this looks like fun. I have a green chair in the garden that has been calling my name all morning long. I think I'll print this out and go sit by the gardenias and play with it awhile.

My favourite opening line is probably...
"Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself."

DILLIGAF said...

I haven't got a scooby...but when did that ever stop me eh?

I won't say 'educated guesses' as it's me...;-)




b - definitely.

b - definitely. (Love this book)

a - definitely.










Which only goes to show I haven't read a lot of what you've read...;-)

DILLIGAF said...

Alright which book is my favourite ever quotation.

"You live, you die, the bit in between is called life. Enjoy!"

a) The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy : Douglas Adams

b) 2001 A Space Odyssey : Arthur C. Clarke

c) Red Dwarf : Grant Naylor

d) Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? : Philip K Dick

Linda Sue said...

"Fear and Loathing" is the only one that rings my very tiny dim bell. Fun anyway, glad you are NOT in hospital! Stay well, dear beauty!

Yoli said...

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." Daphne du Maurier

DILLIGAF said...

I'm waiting....;-)

Carolyn R. Parsons said...

My favourite first line is "It unrolled slowly, forced to show its true colors, curling and snapping back whenever one of us turned loose."

Your challenge looks like fun!

Lori ann said...

Well, my dear Tessa, i love to read too but i'm afraid i'm not quite as well read as you. Do field guides count?

I could never win this contest but i love that you made it, and oh those books!

my favorite line?

"I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills..."

Africa Africa Africa
Africa Africa

Lori ann said...

p.s. zuri and diamond are blowing kisses...

Elisabeth said...

Wonderful post. For me: the opening sentence of Drusilla Modjeska's Poppy: 'The first wound comes with the cutting of the umbilical cord.'

Carol said...

I too shall have to come back to this (I'm not really here you see...I'm writing an essay!!).

Hehehe, love 'It was the day my grandmother exploded'....I know exactly what book that came from :-)

C x

Cheryl Cato said...

Tessa, this is a great challenge, but I'm not up to it. However, I may make a reading list from your challenge as I am having trouble finding books that are of interest to me.
"I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice..." A Prayer for Owen Meany
And of course Lori Ann's favorite:
"I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills..."

pink dogwood said...

Of all the books on this list, I have only read 9 - so there is no way I can answer this. But all is not lost - I have found a great list to add to me 'to read' list :)

Looking forward to seeing who wins this one :)

Madame DeFarge said...

This kept me entertained for ages. Mostly making me feel that I really ought to know more than I did!

Ces Adorio said...

What?!!! There are no questions pertaining to any article from The National Enquirer here? What kind of blog is this? Pffft! I came ready to answer any question about any article from People Magazine and The Sun.

Beth Kephart said...

OH gosh what a gorgeous challenge. I have to do some thinking, though. I am not nearly as well read as you.

You are such a light in this world, dear Tessa.

Rosaria Williams said...

Oh, this is a great challenge! Here it goes:1,a; 2,a; 3,d; 4,b;5,b;6,b; 7,d; 8,b;9,a; 10,a;11,c;12, c;13, c; 14,d; 15,b.

The only one I'm sure is 13 c!
The rest, is like playing the lottery, since I read many of these books fifty plus years ago. It was a great challenge!

ArtSparker said...

Is work the Alcott novel in which the heroine is given a little shred to meat to eat with her dry crust of bread? I remember that vividly. I'm probably going to have to take your challenge.

Tessa said...

Pamela - Virginia Woolf - yes, I agree, that's a wonderful opening line. I hope your green chair gave you lovely moments of peaceful ponderings!

I say, Four Dins old chap, jolly good attempt. Most impressed, dear fellow. Particularly as you did it right there and then without long ponderings. I give you an A* for instant effort. 6 out of 15 right off the top of your noodle is damn good!(And you got me on your favourite. Not a it a) Hitch Hikers Guide?)

Linda Sue - your bells may be dim...but you're certainly not. That is dingdong on the dot, girlfriend.

Yoli - fantastic opening line. We did a fun 'literary tour' in Cornwall once way back with the children and actually visited the setting for Manderley...and the beach where all the horrors happened!

Breeze - now that is a beauty! So lyrical, so evocative. You must please let me know which book it's from?

Lori sweet sisterfriend...that is one of my all time favourites. Of course, it always makes me go all teary! A picture etched on my mind.

Oooh, Elizabeth. I'd completely forgotten that. Superb opening line.

Carol, I know how busy you are darlin', but give it a go if you can! "It was the day my grandmother exploded" can be a toughie because one immediately thinks of typical of him. Yet it isn't his, is it? ;-O

Lizzy - thanks for the visit and I'm so pleased the list may prove useful. A great way to get book recommendations is by visiting friends on to see what they are currently reading...or have read. I could spend all day on that site! (I haven't read 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' so thanks to you, that'll go straight onto my to-read list!)

Pink Dogwood - 9 out of 15 is brilliant...especially since you got them straight off. It's quite an eclectic list, so it takes some brain power to do that so quickly!

Madame D. I'm so pleased you enjoyed the post...and I don't believe for a moment that you wouldn't get the majority of them if you had as much time to ponder as I did before writing this quiz! Our brains are so crammed with stuff, we often need to defrag!!

Beth! Now that simply is not true. I'm in absolute flippin' AWE of what you have read....and especially what you have written, Madam Nominated Prize Winning Author Supremo!!

Lakeviewer! For a 'straight off the top of the head' set of answers that is phenomenal! Wow, I'm well impressed!!

ArtSparker - Loud applause and standing are the runaway WINNER with 11 correct answers out of the 15. Brilliant! Just email me your snail mail addy and the prize is yours! In fact, I think you'd prefer Keri Smith's 'Geurilla Art' ...more your kind of thing - I reckon you pretty much Live Out Loud as it is! (I can't remember if that was from 'Tilly's Christmas' or 'Work...' Actually LMA often wrote about the rigors of poverty, didn't she? )

CesARINO! I know, I know...I hang my head in shame! How's this: 'Boy eats Fly and gives Birth to A Swarm'