Home 5 Articles and Reports 5 Britain’s favourite start to a novel Has Been Revealed

Britain’s favourite start to a novel Has Been Revealed

by | Oct 2, 2023 | Articles and Reports, News

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ – from A Tale of Two Cities – has been voted the most iconic opening from a novel.

The line from Charles Dickens’s French Revolution-era classic, published in 1840, topped a survey of British book lovers with 29 per cent of the vote.

Readers were asked to vote for the most famous, memorable and captivating opening lines from the world of literature – and could pick more than one. The top five also included the beginning of George Orwell’s dystopian 1984, ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen’ (24 per cent), followed by the famous opener of the 1904 children’s classic Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie: ‘All children, except one, grow up’ (22 per cent).

Also making the list was ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit’ from The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien (22 per cent), and ‘Mr and Mrs Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much’ from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling (22 per cent). The first line of Matilda by Roald Dahl, ‘It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful’ received a fifth of the votes (21 per cent). Meanwhile, Adrian’s list of New Year’s resolutions in the opening lines of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend also emerged as one of the best book openers (17 per cent).

The study was commissioned by Amazon Books UK ahead of the Amazon Literary Partnership, which offers support to aspiring and emerging underrepresented writers.

The study also revealed that four in ten (43 per cent) Britons say that the first few lines can make or break a novel.

In fact 64 per cent have stopped reading a book if the opening didn’t grab their attention, while 50 per cent agree there is a lot of skill in crafting a good first line. Some 69 per cent feel a good first chapter sets the tone for the whole novel.

Almost two in five (38 per cent) claimed the first few lines of their favourite books made such an impact that they know them off by heart, with a further 63 per cent believing they could identify a book they’d read and loved just by reading the first line. Darren Hardy, manager for UK Author and Editorial Programmes at Amazon.co.uk which commissioned the survey of 2,000 Britons, said: ‘We know how hard it can be to put pen to a blank piece of paper when fashioning a novel, yet we also know how important these first few words can be to entice the reader further.

TOP 25 MOST ICONIC LINES IN A NOVEL, ACCORDING TO BRITISH BOOK LOVERS:

  1. ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – 29%
  2. ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ 1984 by George Orwell – 24%
  3. ‘All children, except one, grow up.’ Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie – 22%
  4. ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien – 22%
  5. ‘Mr and Mrs Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.’ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling – 22%
  6. ‘It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.’ Matilda by Roald Dahl – 21%
  7. ‘Thursday January 1st BANK HOLIDAY IN ENGLAND, IRELAND, SCOTLAND AND WALES These are my New Year’s resolutions:

I will help the blind across the road

 

I will hang my trousers up

I will put the sleeves back on my records

I will not start smoking

I will stop squeezing my spots

I will be kind to the dog

I will help the poor and ignorant

After hearing the disgusting noises from downstairs last night, I have also vowed never to drink alcohol.’ Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend – 17%

  1. ‘I’m pretty much f**ked.’ The Martian by Andy Weir – 16%
  2. ‘Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy…’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – 16%
  3. ‘James Bond, with two double bourbons inside him, sat in the final departure lounge of Miami airport and thought about death.’ Goldfinger by Ian Fleming – 16%
  4. ‘My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.’ The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – 15%
  5. ‘When I think of my wife, I always think of the back of her head. I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brain, trying to get answers.’ Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – 15%
  6. ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – 15%
  7. ‘If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.’ Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger – 13%

 

  1. ‘Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun.’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – 12%
  2. ‘January: An Exceptionally Bad Start. Sunday 1 January. 129 lbs (but post-Christmas), alcohol units 14 (but effectively covers 2 days as 4 hours of party was on New Year), cigarettes 22, calories 5424.’ Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding – 12%
  3. ‘As I sit here with one foot on either side of the ledge, looking down from twelve stories above the streets of Boston, I can’t help but think about suicide.’ It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover – 12%
  4. ‘Call me Ishmael.’ Moby-Dick by Herman Melville – 11%
  5. ‘I am always drawn back to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods.’ Breakfast at Tiffanys by Truman Capote – 11%
  6. ‘When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.’ The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins – 11%
  7. ‘If you want to find Cherry-Tree Lane all you have to do is ask the Policeman at the cross-roads.’ Mary Poppins by PL Travers – 11%
  8. ‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – 11%
  9. ‘You better not never tell nobody but God.’ The Color Purple by Alice Walker – 10%
  10. ‘If you’re going to read this, don’t bother.’ Choke by Chuck Palahniuk – 10%
  11. ‘I am an invisible man.’ Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison – 9%

 

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