Tag Archives: f scott fitzgerald

The best 100 opening lines in books


I found this very nice gallery online and not only does it do the best 100 opening lines but also the best closing lines.  Here are some of my favourite from their list of opening lines;

“It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.”

Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis.

“It was the day my grandmother exploded.”

The Crow Road, Iain Banks

“Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.”

Middlemarch, George Elliot

“Dr Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse.”

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

and of course for me the best,

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

NB since writing this post I have had it pointed out that the best one of all was not on there, in my defence I can only say that it wasn’t on the website’s list so I forgot it, but here it is and I think actually it is my favourite

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

The Go-Between,  L P Hartley

They also have some that I really don’t think are very good and I am sure they just chose them because the books have been very popular recently like;

“Today I’m five.”

Room, Emma Donoghue

“Clare: It’s hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he’s okay. It’s hard to be the one who stays.”

The Time Travellers Wife , Audrey Niffenegger

The website also has other lists like the 20 best books and the best films based on books, both of which I don’t really agree with but it is a very lovely looking website and worth checking out.  It would be good to see if other people agree on some of these choices.



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Dick Diver – the best named hero in literature? F Scott Fitzgerald – Tender is the Night

F Scott Fitzgerald´s stories are usually fantastic and evocative of the wealth and optimism of the Jazz Age (indeed some say he created the term) and the economic depression of the 1930s.  For me, his Babylon Revisted is one of the greatest short stories ever reflecting this parallel.  Tender is the Night was chosen as our latest book club read, I had read this before and was looking forward to re-reading it but I seemed to find it a disappointment the second time  round.

Dick Diver, in my opinion, the best named man in fiction, is holidaying with his wife Nicole whom he met whilst treating her as his mental patient.  They are a wealthy fashionable couple who seem to have it all and their friends are devoted to them.  The young film star Rosemary meets them and is instantly enamoured, especially with Dick.  Slowly as the novel unfolds, their lives begin to unravel and their relationship changes.    The underlying theme is how one person has become strong by destroying another— Dick has been bought and used by the Warren family, a point emphasized cynically by Nicole’s sister, who remarks that “That was what he was educated for.”

The book was one of his least successful; most of the book is set in the 20s, which apparently led critics  in the 1930s who wanted to forget the excesses of the prior decade to criticise it.  One problem with the book is the chronology; apparently Fitzgerald redrafted this repeatedly over nine years and at one point the manuscript was over a foot tall. This led to some confusion for me re-reading the novel as my version of the book was strictly chronological, whereas other editions begin with Rosemary meeting the Divers on the French Rivieria.  Some critics have argued the chronological approach makes it a better book but you do lose the interesting hook at the beginning.

The Fitzgeralds

The best aspect of the book is that it is semi-autobiographical, in fact reading the biographies of Scott and Zelda are fascinating.    Fitzgerald  was apparently haunted by his inability to progress on the novel, like Dick who is unable to write his own medical text.  Fitzgerald decided what he was going to write his novel about a man of almost limitless potential who makes the fatal decision to marry a beautiful but mentally ill woman, and who ultimately sinks into despair and alcoholism when their doomed marriage fails (like Fitzgerald himself). Fitzgerald reflects his feelings about his own wasted talent and (self-perceived) professional failure and stagnation; his feelings about his parents (who provided much of the inspiration for Dick and Nicole Diver); about his marriage, and Zelda’s nervous breakdown, and psychiatry; about his affair with Lois Moran a beautiful teenage actress  (who inspired the character of Rosemary), with whom he had a relationship, and Zelda’s with the French aviator Edouard Jozan.

So the book was maybe not quite as good the second time around and nowhere near as great as some of his short stories, but can anyone top the name Dick Diver?

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