I must admit some of my favourite books are slow-burners so I’m willing to overlook a so-so opening chapter, providing there’s a hint of promise to come. Having said that, you can’t beat an opening that absolutely knocks your socks off and begs you to keep reading. The hard bit for the author is keeping up that momentum to the final page. All the books below not only have great openings, they’re great books full stop.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
An oldie but a goodie, this chapter tops lists as one of the best openings in literature for excellent reason! Witty and hilarious from the word go, it opens with Mrs. Bennet breathlessly informing her husband of the eligible new tenant at nearby Netherfield Park and the possible implications for her ‘girls’. I adore the power play in Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s relationship and it’s established beautifully here. Just perfect.
We Were Liars by E Lockhart
Stylish, poetic and economical, this moody one-pager is a thing of skill and beauty. Its description of the complicated Sinclair family commands you to turn the page and get to know them better.
Trouble by Non Pratt
This one is all about the voice and Hannah’s wallops you around the face from the second she brazenly informs us of her recent exploits with boyfriend, Fletch. Smart, funny and full of attitude, Hannah’s scattergun delivery doesn’t let up, contrasting wonderfully with the more measured Aaron, with whom she shares narrating duties.
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend
I’m a bit of a poker-faced reader so it takes a pretty exceptional book to get me LOL-ing on the very first page. Adrian’s diary entries are utterly addictive, his hilarious and often infuriating voice never faltering as he laments problem skin, chain-smoking parents and his unrequited love for Pandora. Genius.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The first paragraph is as perfect as it is devastating and the rest of the chapter follows suite, as murdered teenager Susie Salmon reflects on her final moments on earth from her new home in heaven. Over ten years since I first read it, this chapter still gives me goose bumps.