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Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 June 2018
One Sentence: a story about great sentences and great first sentences
This article on one sentence may veer in an entirely different direction, or not! I don’t always want to be predictable.
Journalists and newspapers often write articles on the first lines or one sentence of novels in holiday periods and the best of them are marvellous. Jane Austen and Tolstoy are always the first cabs off the rank.
Great opening sentences in fiction
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, 1813
Comment: This one sentence isn’t a bad summary of the novel. Underlying it is an indictment of late 18th Century inheritance laws and the inability of women to make their own way in the world, of which Jane Austen was painfully aware. She covers this topic in all her books on 18th century county life and manners.
The Story: David Bader’s Haiku barely does a better job than Jane’s sentence.
Single white lass seeks,
landed gent for marriage, whist,
No parsons, thank you.
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
— Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, 1878
Comment: Leo Tolstoy’s one sentence doesn’t summarise the novel but it is a wonderful beginning and sets the atmosphere that permeates the book.
The first sentence, however, doesn’t make the novel and a brilliant first sentence is not necessary to a good novel. Nevertheless, from the two examples, one does want to read on: Find out what happens next!
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