Dying on the First Page

Last weekend my family and I went to see the new Disney film, Tangled. It was great, as I fully expected it to be, but I spent the first few minutes wondering which movie the film was acknowledging with the great opening line - "This is the story of how I died."

I'd heard that before I knew, spoken in a woman's voice. My eldest daughter told me it was Twilight but in fact she was wrong. (Twilight begins - "I had never given much thought to how I would die.") A lot of Googling later and I had my answer. It wasn't a film at all, but a feature-length and much-awaiting climactic episode of Doctor Who which saw the Doctor's assistant, Rose Tyler, transported to an alternate reality. And the opening words, spoken by Rose as narrator, are "This is the story of how I died."

Another book I read recently, Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, opens with the death of the complex and difficult character who features as a ghost for much of the rest of the book. As first lines go, opening with reference to your main character's death (or your own death, if the book is written in the first person) is intriguing and gripping and generally hard to beat. So I'm delighted to say that even before I discovered this fact I had written the opening line of Emon and the Emperor: "I had drowned before."

What other dramatic opening lines can you recall? Are there any which really stick in your mind? Did they grip you right from the start with enough intrigue to get you reading the rest of the book, if only to make sense of that first line?


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