54 great opening lines: 4

I was brought here from Senegal when I was two years old by the chevalier de B., who was then governor there.

Ourika, Claire de Duras, translated by John Fowles


John Fowles was the author of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, whose opening line I posted yesterday, as no. 3.

54 great opening lines: 3

An easterly is the most disagreeable wind in Lyme Bay – Lyme Bay being that largest bite from the underside of England’s outstretched south-western leg – and a person of curiosity could at once have deduced several strong probabilities about the pair who began to walk down the quay at Lyme Regis, the small but ancient eponym of the inbite, one incisively sharp and blustery morning in the late March of 1867.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles


If The Hobbit is one of my favourite books but far from my favourite movie, The French Lieutenant’s Woman is a favourite in both forms.  I was once obsessed with the movie, hiring it and playing parts of it over and over.  Before writing this novel, John Fowles had translated a French novel by Claire de Duras, Ourika, based on a true story about a Senegalese girl taken to Paris as a baby and raised separately within the nobility.  As she grew older she was surprised to find she lived in a culture of racial segregation.  Fowles believed that this story affected his telling of Sarah Woodruff’s tale as the fallen and outcast French Lieutenant’s Woman.

54 great opening lines: 1

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë


From today I’m going to attempt a self-imposed challenge:  post 54 great opening lines from books on my shelves.  After reading a post by Zany4Days about challenging himself to paint a watercolour every day for 30 days, 100 days, the whole year, I’ve decided to study the first few words in good stories, an activity which might, which should, affect my own writing.  The opening lines that I post will be in English, but not all of them will be from English-language stories.  Some will be my translations of great French opening lines.  After browsing my bookshelves, I initially chose a figure of 50, but I could possibly come up with four more and make it 54, my age from today…

I’ll begin with the first line from a novel I read when I was 13 which gave me a plan for my life, a plan I haven’t always followed but, in hindsight, I see has often followed me.  It begins with:

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.