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Book quiz: do you know these classic first lines?

Opening lines are an important part of any piece of literature. A writer has to grab the attention of the reader with that first line or run the risk of them putting the book down. While that might sound a little alarmist, there is no doubt that a punchy opening line lingers in the memory – and that is surely essential for any great book.

Or is it? How many classic novels have truly memorable opening lines, and how many have ones that have barely registered? You may instantly know that “Someone must have traduced Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning” is the first line of Kafka’s The Trial, or this may be news to you.

Take our interactive quiz to see how many openers from novels in our Oxford World’s Classics series you recognize.

Do you know from which book in the Oxford World’s Classics series these first lines are taken?

Game Over

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”
A On the Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin
B Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
C The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
D Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
“In the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army.”
A A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
B Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
C Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
D The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.
“I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull.”
A Orlando by Virginia Woolf
B Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
C A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
D Redgauntlet by Walter Scott
“Left Munich at 8.35 pm on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6.46, but train was an hour late.”
A Dracula by Bram Stoker
B Silas Marner by George Eliot
C Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence
D The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
“The first place that I can well remember was a large, pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it.”
A The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
B Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
C Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
D Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
“‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
A The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
B The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
C Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
D Ulysses by James Joyce
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
A Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
B Kim by Rudyard Kipling
C The Sea-Wolf by Jack London
D Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
“On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore or Blackmoor.”
A Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
B The Sea-Wolf by Jack London
C Paradise Lost by John Milton
D The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
“Call me Ishmael.”
A The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
B Moby Dick by Herman Melville
C Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
D Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne
“You don’t know about me, without you have read a book by the name of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’, but that ain’t no matter.”
A Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
B The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
C The American by Henry James
D Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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