The first line – Revealed!

Three sharp red pencils.

Let’s begin.
(Photo by Horia Varlan.)

Last week I invited folks to identify ten novels written by women, based only on the first line of the novel. Many people identified several of the novels, but no one knew them all. (Neither would I.)

Here are the answers

1. “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish onboard.”

Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

2. “They shoot the white girl first.”

Paradise by Toni Morrison

3. “It began the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel.”

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

4. “That night when he came to claim her, he stood on the short lawn before her house, his knees bent, his fists driven into his thighs, and bellowed her name with such passion that even the friends who surrounded him, who had come to support him, to drag her from the house, to murder her family if they had to, let the chains the carried go limp in their hands.”

That Night by Alice McDermott

5. “Dear God, I am fourteen years old.”

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

6. “Princeton, in the summer, smelled of nothing, and although Ifemelu liked the tranquil greenness of the many trees, the clean streets and stately homes, the delicately overpriced shops, and the quiet, abiding air of earned grace, it was this, the lack of a smell, that most appealed to her, perhaps because the other American cities she knew well had all smelled distinctly.”

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

7. “’Yes, of course, if it’s fine tomorrow,’ said Mrs. Ramsay.”

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

8. “I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old.”

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

9. “We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.”

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

10. “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

And the winner is…

Jan Elman Stout identified the most books: six of the ten titles (numbers 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 8). She will be the proud owner of Egg Heaven, a collection of powerful and haunting short stories by the award-winning writer Robin Parks.

The book will be published October 1. You can preview it here. Congratulations, Jan!


3 thoughts on “The first line – Revealed!

  1. I won?! No way! I never win anything. And how thrilling that it’s a fiction contest. Can’t wait to read Egg Heaven. Thanks, Lynn.


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