Of course, when one talks of opening lines, there are some timeless classics that have been done to death. Take for instance -
Happy families are all alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Pride and Prejudice
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
These are all brilliant lines. But if I were to be really honest and think of the first lines I have personally enjoyed the most, these wouldn't make my favourites, except maybe the 1984 one. Here are three 'first lines' or 'first paragraphs' that I have found most unbelievably impactful:
#3: Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut
All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn't his. Another guy I knew really did threaten to have his personal enemies killed by hired gunmen after the war. And so on. I've changed all the names.
#2: Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
I was born in the city of Bombay ... once upon a time. No, that won't do, there's no getting away from the date: I was born in Dr.Narlikar's Nursing Home on August 15, 1947. And the time? The time matters, too. Well then: At night. No, it's important to be more ... On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. Clock-hands joined palms in respectful greeting as I came. Oh, spell it out, spell it out: at the precise instant of India's arrival at independence, I tumbled forth into the world. There were gasps. And, outside the window, fireworks and crowds.
... and the opening lines I have most enjoyed over years of reading ...
#1: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
Doesn't fail to bring a smile to my face the hundredth time I read it!
Your favorites, fellow ape-descendants?