There are opening lines and opening lines. Some slam the door before it is more than slightly cracked and others lure you in, intrigued, mesmerized or just plain curious. Ask any woman that has ever stepped foot into a bar or pub – she knows.
Part of our pre-hurricane Irma ritual, after stocking up on water and non-perishable food items, was to secure, as best we thought, our most valuable, needed or beloved items. Our books were among the first to be moved to “higher ground”.
My love affair with the printed page, illustrations and special bindings began when I was around 5 years old. Dick and Jane became my first friends. Later, Long John Silver and Robinson Crusoe would protect me and show me how to survive the sinking ship, Home. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry inspired a sense of adventure and survival. Oh, how I related to Huck.
So, now, the storm has passed. My collection of friends and mentors, saints and those not quite so much so, have been returned to their place of glory – a bookcase in our sunroom overlooking our pond and all who visit our home.
Handling them, dusting them and rearranging each just so was a labor of love. Seeing them as individuals, rather than as a collection, brought up memories. All good. Some books I’d nearly forgotten. Some I want to experience again. And then I had an idea.
Choosing mostly at random, I have picked several books from which to share the opening lines with you. To say I have eclectic taste in literature may be somewhat of an understatement. But, I’m sure many of you will have read some of these. If not, maybe these opening lines will interest you as much as they did me.
“The motto was ‘Pax’ but the word was set in a circle of thorns. Pax: Peace, but what a strange peace, made of unremitting toil and effort – seldom with a seen result: subject to constant interruptions, unexpected demands, short sleep at nights, little comfort, sometimes scant food: beset with disappointments and usually misunderstood, yet peace all the same, undeviating, filled with joy and gratitude and love. ‘It is my My own peace I give unto you.’ Not, notice, the world’s peace.”…In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden.
“ We don’t get mad anymore. There’s no point. The story is as familiar as the dialogue and the dialogue is now a monstrous cliché, and just as numbing.
Quite recently I went home. Charlestown, County Mayo, where I was born 37 years ago, is an Irish Rural town. Village, perhaps, would be a better word. It was built in spite at the height of the greatest tragedy in the history of rural Ireland: the Great Famine.” … No One Shouted Stop!, by John Healy.
“Good-bye’, they were all crying. ‘Good- bye, Peter. Good bye, good-bye’. And he meant to call out ‘Good-bye’ again to all of them, but the lump in his throat choked the cry to a squeak.” …The Golden Ocean, by Patrick O’Brian.
“At the end of her life, Edith Stein considered herself one of countless “hidden souls” who are part of the invisible Church and who regularly remain hidden from the world. She was a contemplative nun, a member of the Discalced Carmelite Order. Yet, as Edith herself pointed out, throughout the history of humankind the visible Church has grown out of this invisible one”…Edith Stein, by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda.
“The first thing Miss Judith Hearne unpacked in her new lodgings was the silver-framed photograph of her aunt. The place for her aunt, ever since the sad day of the funeral, was on the mantelpiece of whatever bed-sitting-room Miss Hearne happened to be living in. And as she put her up now, the photograph eyes were stern and questioning, sharing Miss Hearne’s own misgivings about the condition of the bed-springs, the shabbiness of the furniture and the run-down part of Belfast in which the room was situated.”…The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, by Brian Moore.
Perhaps one or two of these opening lines will pique your interest enough to track down and read the book. Some, such as John Healy’s thoughtful, No One Shouted Stop!, a history of my family’s home town in Ireland, may be somewhat hard to find, but worth the search. Brian Moore is, perhaps, one of the best modern writers to come out of Ireland. Rumer Godden’s writings have stayed with me for years. Both Moore’s book and Rumer Godden’s have been made into films. Nicely done, too.
I’d love to read some of your favorite “Opening Lines”. But, please, no, “What’s a nice guy like you doing in a joint like this?” I’ve heard it before!! (I wish).