46 Great Opening Lines: 40

It’s pre-dawn, all dark. Breeding season. First words of ‘Breeding Season’, Amanda Niehaus, inĀ Overland, Spring 2017 I’ve been buying literary journals for a couple of years now, reading short stories to see how writers write in the 21st century. My translations are mostly of 19th-century stories, so I need to prompt myself to read today’s… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 38

Had it not been for a murder and robbery on Sunday, 26 March 1848, the University of Queensland would not be sited at St Lucia. The Mayne Inheritance, Rosamond Siemon, 1997 The first line of this book contains the beginning and end of the story. A great way to start. Especially in a book about… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 36

My brother Jack does not come into the story straight away. Opening line, My Brother Jack, George Johnston, 1964 A great first line that lets the reader know he’ll have to read on for a while before encountering the man of the title, Jack. It’s a story about an Australian bloke who is a likeable… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 35

The rabbits came many grandparents ago. First line, The Rabbits, John Marsden, 1998 The phrase ‘many grandparents ago’ is a brilliant way of defining time for Australian descendants of immigrants. For me, it’s a great opener to an unsettling story. The Rabbits is a fable about two things multiplying prolifically in this country: rabbits and… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 25

Advertised it looked an interesting job: Writer requires an intelligent typist. Opening line, The Words She Types, Michael Wilding, 1975 A few years ago I was staying in an apartment with bookshelves full of books. With only three days to read, I selected The Penguin Best Australian Short Stories and flicked through it, reading first… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 22

In Laurence Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen’, which adorns numerous war memorials around Australia, there is a verse that every Australian knows: They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old… Opening line of the Author’s Note, Desert Boys, Peter Rees, 2012 * I’ve heard the line ‘They shall grow not old…’… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 16

The sun burns hotly thro’ the gums As down the road old Rogan comes — The hatter from the lonely hut Beside the track to Woollybutt. He likes to spend his Christmas with us here. First lines, A Bush Christmas, C. J. Dennis, 1931  Clearly, if you’re reading a poem entitled A Bush Christmas and… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 4

At least two hundred poor beggars were counted sleeping out on the pavements of the main streets of Sydney the other night – grotesque bundles of rags lying under the verandahs of the old Fruit Markets and York-street shops, with their heads to the wall and their feet to the gutter. ‘Dossing Out’ and ‘Camping’,… Continue reading