Opening lines…by Bhavana Gopinath

There is something magical about opening an unread book. As I hunker down with my most recent loot from the library, I have a zillion thoughts swirling through my head:  Will I like this, or am I wasting my time, will it transform my life or make my commute more boring, is it the classic that everyone says it is, maybe I will not understand it all. Usually, all my doubts are laid to rest within the first ten pages, and I decide whether to stick with it or return it.

Sometimes though, just the opening lines of the book will tell you all that you need to know. Compelling sentences crafted with such precision, that they knock you breathless. You have to drown in the book before you think of coming up for air. And ranked high among classic opening lines is Charles Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities”:

It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us,
we had nothing before us…

I read this book in high school, when we were given heavy doses of Shakespeare and Dickens. I don’t remember the rest of the story in such detail, but these lines stayed in my mind. They are timeless and relevant even today — a quick look at the headlines will prove it. An unsettling realization for the human race perhaps, but a testament to the enduring power of great literature.

Do you remember any opening lines of a book that affected you? If so, we would love to hear about it. Do share your experiences by writing to ncrbulletin@editors.ca. We might even want to publish it on our blog.

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2 comments

  1. I love this idea. Those opening lines from “A Tale of Two Cities” are still relevant today. Thank you for writing such an inspirational piece and creating this delightful project.

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