10 Memorable Opening Lines from the Classics 

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

The opening line to Daphne du Maurier’s most famous novel, Rebecca is one of the great opening lines in English fiction. In one stroke, du Maurier establishes the voice, the locale, and the dream-like atmosphere of the story.

– The Strand Magazine 

Nothing can beat the dreaminess of the beginning of the book Rebecca. It talks of Manderley, the iconic English countryside property that the writer moves to after marrying the reclusive De Winter. 

Manderley turns out to be mesmerizing and mysterious, just as the eponymous wife, the first Mrs. de Winter. 

2. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

In the political fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, the opening gives the feeling of something amiss through the word ‘thirteen’. And sure enough, it brings us to the manipulation of language under the totalitarian regime of Big Brother. 

3.” All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy starts with a generalization and presents a philosophical view along with the telling if the tale. The family, or families of course are central to his story even though they are all unhappy, of course in their unique ways. 

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 

“It was a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

This sets the tone for this delightful Victorian novel. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is of many things. It is about the society at that time but at its bare bones, the story is told through the Bennett family and is about husband finding for at least three of the five Bennett girls. 

5. “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

In One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the opening lines present fire and ice. The first line itself creates the surreal environment that is book presents inuch greater detail while describing the lives of seven generations of the Buendias, the younger ones doomed to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors. 

6. “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 Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th, 1947. The time matters, too.”

In Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie, the time matters. The stroke of midnight, at which the protagonist is born is portentous of his life, as his fortunes are tied to that of his country and parallels are drawn always between his life and the trajectory of the counyry’s growth. 

7. “Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.”

The opening lines of The Luck of the Bodkins by PG Wodehouse sound intriguing. For the uninitiated, the pride seems contrived. The furtive look on Minty Bodkins face characterizes much of his actions through the book. Mortally afraid of his muscular fiancée, Gertrude, Monty begs and cajoles her all through the book till the end when he finally finds courage. 

It is a laugh riot all the way, just like Wodehouse. 

8. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

—A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. 

The opening of the book establishes the nature of the time it was set in. The comparisons and the contrasts are endless and that is how much of the book moves, in confusion and conflict. 

9. “She will be here today.” 

In The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach, the first line echoes the anticipation and the hope for his search for a soulmate. 

10. “It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.”

Joseph Heller in Catch-22 is satirist. The book is absurd and the opening shows just how twisted things can get during the war. 

5 ways to Greater Creativity 

As writers, we string together words and put our hearts and souls into them so that we may find catharsis and resonance. 

We have the ideas. We have the words. We know what we want to write but do we sit down and write? Are there not times when we hit the block, or times we just don’t find the time or times when what we want to say does not come out right or times when we feel too lazy and that makes us go out of practice or we encounter a boredom so deep that we question our abilities or worse still our desire to write. 

There are ways to stoke our creativity so that we can continue to be the creators, bringing forth beauty and even feel drunk on the joy of creation. How to reach that stage? How to create or write (because I am addressing writers here) so that we are consistent and content with the process? 

How to put the words to paper? 

1. Don’t let go 

Don’t let go of your passion, of what nurtures you. Don’t be satisfied and rest on your laurels. Don’t be stress free all the time. Writing is meant to bring joy but if you stick at the easy, you won’t challenge yourself ever. When there is no challenge, boredom sets in and that feeling of wanting to write dissolves fast. 

If writing is important to you, then keep at it, even on the days it feels like a chore. Step away for sometime and you might have stepped too far. 

2. Stay open

We rush through our days. Time is short and the lists are long. There is always a sense of urgency. We like being busy. It makes us feel that we are productive. And yet these are the very days that are a blur when we look back. We don’t remember them for the joy of creation. In being busy and in living with a purpose of accomplishing more and more, we might forget the real meaning and the purpose of our lives. These busy days are the ones when we are closed. 

So, stay open. It is not possible to clear our calendars. But it is possible to carve out a state of mind where creative thinking can flourish. This state is when we are not ticking off things on a list. It is when we are content to ‘be’. At its best, the open state is when we are in communion with our deeper selves and we are open to new thoughts, perceptions and ideas. 

3. Time and Space 

To be in a open frame of mind, carve out some time for yourself. It could be early mornings or late nights or the lazy noons when things are not so rushed and can slow down and watch your thoughts. Make space for your thoughts. And in a literal sense, have a physical space where you can be in peace and harmony. 

It could be a walk path that works for you, early in the mornings. But these are the places and this is the time when you find your thoughts expanding through the perceived barriers of your deadlines. Cherish these times. These would help later with the flow of words. 
4. Have fun with mistakes 

It is needed that there are no worries about mistakes and there is no room for doubts when you write. Sure, there are second thoughts but do not be hemmed in by expectations or your perceived limitations. 

Take courage in your hands and experiment. Prepare to fail. There, at the other end of the spectrum lies real magic. 

5. Stick around till it is done 

Don’t give in fast. You owe it to yourself. The idea is to challenge yourself every now and then so that the going does not stay easy and lead to boredom. Step out of your comfort zone and grow. 

Thanks to Rose for the discussion on writing and for suggesting the subject of this listicle. 

Is there a particular listicle that you have always wanted to read but could never find it? Let us talk of them

This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

Scaredy Cat : A Book Review 

Title : Scaredy Cat 

Author : Mark Billingham 

Genre : Mystery, Crime Thriller 

Series : Second book in the Tom Thorne series. 

Summary 

Two women are murdered within hours of one another near the station, but in quite different ways. When a connection is made with two other murders which occurred months before, DI Thorne realizes two serial killers may be at work in a macabre partnership.

Review 

Scaredy Cat is the most unputdownable, brilliant and engaging crime thriller featuring a series of murders that turn out to be done by a pair of serial killers. My assessment for the book may sound clichéd but the novel is far from it. Everything, from the cast of characters who are doing the chase (Team 3) to the murderer (s) to the use of folie a deux (more on that later) are original, confident and credible. 

Even though Scaredy Cat is second in the Tom Thorne series, it can very well be read as a stand alone book. It being a series is a bonus for the reader, for by the time you reach the climax, you would have resolved to read more of this excellent author. 

The Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, a very capable and rather melancholic officer with a reputation (also of disregarding the Powers That Be) is Part of Team 3. He is partenered by a seeming sidekick, Dave Holland, who, in reality can carry a lot of plot on his shoulders as well as the gay pathologist Hendricks, who is really a very good friend. The quartet is completed by Sarah McEvans, hard faced and competent and acting as a pivot for the climax. The other characters, Norman, the media guy and Brigstocke are quirky and well rounded and unpredictable. 

The team has another ally in carrying the story forward and that is London itself. In the books that I have come to love, the location and the setting is mostly elaborate and it plays a large role in moulding the psyche of the characters. So, it is here, the under belly of the city mirroring the mind of the industry affected by the killings, the perpetrators, the victims and the ones chasing the killers. 

Thames, the lifeline of London is dwelt upon lovingly even though all the protagonists could see was the squalid disrepair. I read of the serene beauty of the river banks in Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat and reading of the Thames through the eyes of Thorne and another police officer was a jolt, just like the one you get when you match reality with memories. 

The killer or the killers, as Thorne surmises very soon in the current investigation, are untraditional. The department has been sitting on other cases, of women being murdered some months back. As the investigation deepens, there arises a picture of not one but two serial killers, who strike simultaneously and kill similarly even though both are different. Their psychological profiling shows that one is hesitant and the other ruthless. It is the Modus Operandi that is different and intriguing. There are similarities and then there are deviations. 

In explaining the killers’ mindset, the author has excellently used Folie a deux, a condition of a shared psychosis, a psychiatric syndrome, in which symptoms of a delusional nature are transmitted from one person to another. Needless to say, the relationship between the pair of killers is troubled to say the least delving into the meaning of power and fear harnessed to disastrous conclusions. 

The book cover shows a pair of eyes, with a different expression in each eye. The title conveys something of fear, of teasing, of bullying that is the backdrop of the killings. 

The backstory is well developed and the frequent flashbacks keep the story running back and forth, not that the reader loses interest. These flashbacks introduce newer interest and understanding as the story unfolds; as a pair of murders turn into a series, more happening in different locations and more being rediscovered as part of a pattern. 

As for the gore factor of the killings, it is not very high. It is not the actual act that is disgusting but the way it is carried out. There is an emotional angle to the killings in case the reader is not horrified enough that runs through the mind of Tom Thorne. He milks the brutality over and over again, agonising over the inevitability of the crime and the poignance of the last moments of the victims as captured by the CCTV footage. 

What’s to Like 

In case of crime thrillers, I am more interested in the crime and the criminal and not in the characters solving the case. But here the Team 3 is exceptionally interesting, their dynamics riveting and the office politics intriguing. 

The characters are so well fleshed out that inspite of the angst ridden monologues / thoughts of Thorne, he never becomes tiresome. Even though there is no love interest, nothing to contrast the character with but slowly the interaction with his Alzheimer ridden father brings the compassion out in full. 

The book gives the reader every emotion. The thrill of a chase. Mystery, of course. The horror of murder. Angst in the heart of the most hardened police investigator. Emotional trauma and a few tugs at the heart strings. 

The pace never slackens (almost) and the narrative is tight, entertaining, intriguing. When the investigation is slow, there is tension in other ways. It shows up in the form of an illicit or a falling apart relationship or the paranoia of a drug addict. 

Also the book builds up to an excellent climax, which is every bit as exciting as the building up to it. 

Some of the scenes stand out very well. There is the place where the dreaded, cold blooded killer finally loses control, slapping his wife. There is the unforgettable scene of a coke snorting police woman. There are Thorne’s counseling sessions to his gay friends that stand out. And sometimes it is chilling going back into the past, in the childhood of the killers. 

Scaredy Cat isn’t just about a few horrible crimes nor is it a straight cat and mouse chase. There is plenty of cheese to nibble at ( stretching the metaphor). The plot is nearly flawless. 

What’s Not to Like 

By the time I turned the last page I had all but forgotten the minor irritants in the book. 

There is a frequent change in the Point of View and in the beginning it took me a few paragraphs to understand that something was amiss. I had to backtrack to understand why the story was not running linearly any more. Once I caught on to the POV trick, I wisened up and rather started enjoying the switch in the voices as the scenes changed. 

Thorne is very angst ridden and very melancholic. His thoughts run in circles. He thinks endlessly of the nature of his profession and the hardening of hearts and emotions as time goes by, encountering the crime and the criminals. After a while, his thoughts become predictable and look like fillers covering up a lull in the plot. 

There are a few minor credibity issues with the book. Thorne is in touch with one of the killers on phone. He is supposed to have escaped from custody and yet, Thorne just picks the phone and talks to him. That simple, even when the prisoner broke his nose while trying to get away. There was too much of bonhomie between them. 

The discovery of Karen McMahon’s grave with remarkable ease was another place where things seemed to be coming together all too easy. 

TV Series 

This 2002 bestseller was also made into a successful TV series in 2010. 

About the Author 

Mark Billingham is an English novelist, actor, television screenwriter and comedian whose series of Tom Thorne – crime novels are best-sellers in that particular genre. This is initiative enough to pick this particular book. 

Tom Thorne, the DI, around whom the story revolves, has been imbued with a lot of Billingham’s personal characteristics. The two share a birthday, a locale (London) and musical interests. 

The inspiration for Scaredy Cat came from Billingham’s own brush with crime. He and his writing partner were kidnapped and held hostage in a hotel room. Billingham used that fear as the basis for Scaredy Cat and the motivation of the killers. The hotel killings also appeared as a sub plot in the book. 

Should you read it? 

Most definitely! 

It is a Must-read for crime thriller lovers and for all the other genre readers who like a well fleshed out story and plenty of intrigue. 

5 Ways to Bid Adieu

Bidding farewell is always hard, unless you are longing to move on from your present circumstances. Usually, the pull of ‘status quo’ is too strong and all we wish is to stay where we are, with people we are used to and with our routines that we have stuck to.
It has happened to me often that I have had to bid adieu to places. For all of my childhood and much of my adulthood, I have hopped from one place to another and in the process had a rich life of new experiences, different cultures and mind expanding circumstances. I am ready to move on, to adapt, to see the new, to view the different all because of the valuable experiences that change brings.

 
Due to a quirk of fate, the past few years saw me moving less and less. Although, I was always ready to leave, one foot in the door, always looking at what lay beyond, I had started putting down roots. But life is nothing but a movement and there is a time when we have to move on.
Even though it is painful to go from places that we invest so much in, it is also important to say goodbyes completely so that we can look back after a few years and remember only the good.
In the process of moving on, here are the things I wish we can do for peace. 

One
, say goodbye to the people that have mattered. Deep and close relationships are the bedrock of a stable and fulfilling life. Even though the world is networked as never before and talking to someone is as easy as the push of the ‘call’ button on the phone, yet to cease sharing the most insignificant details of your life with someone and let the frequent belly laughs subside because you no longer go through the same days can feel bad. So, acknowledge that this is going to happen and that your relationship is going to change. Say thank you to all those who have shared your world. And pledge to stay in touch and have a deeper relationship that defies distance.

Two
, say goodbye to the places as well. It may seem weird but we are as attached to the places we visit frequently. So, say goodbye to the parks you frequent, the restaurants you loved eating in, the theatres and the art galleries you have lingered in and the bends in the road that give you the first glimpse of your favourite landmark.

Three
, take memories with you. Of course, you have been making memories all along. Now, just gather them in your camera, in your scrapbook and as souvenirs. For you and your new friends.

Four
, plan to come back. Never say never. Life, with its unexpected twists and surprises may just bring you back. It has happened to me and with very pleasant results.

Five
, stay Grateful. Say good bye and at the same time, stay grateful for the wonderful memories and the learning. You were meant to be here and you were meant to move on. It is all a part of the Universe’s grandiose plan for you.
I just wish that this time I am ready to let go with grace and love. 

Dear Reader, tell me of the times that you have had to say goodbye to the things that mattered. Tell me how you managed. Tell me how to be accepting and graceful. 

This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 


3 Lazy Ways to be Happier

I like to be ‘lazy happy’, just as I like to be ‘lazy busy’. The keyword here is ‘lazy’ in both kinds of mental states. It is an attempt to be things we are meant to be, without trying too hard. 

Spiritual guru, Deepak Chopra, in his book, ‘The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success’ emphasizes on spontaneity and an effortless sense of well being. He maintains that success does not come through working hard but by relaxing into who we are and by understanding the principles that govern the entire existence. When we are in harmony with the Natural Law, abundance springs forth easily. 

Looking for Happiness can be easier than working on our behaviour, attitudes and motivations. Most self help literature suggests that to bring about a change in our circumstances, we must drive the change. And yet plenty of recent research suggests that there are ways we can manifest success and happiness in our lives without trying too hard. 

Here are three effortless ways to feel happier and to be more successful. 

1. Like Other People 

Success and Happiness are influenced largely by others, the ones we interact with on a daily basis – in our homes and at our workplaces. Happiness is a state of mind and positive interactions can accelerate the feeling of positivity and bring in trust in relationships. We don’t want to be happy alone. We want the world to celebrate with us. We want to walk in tandem with the people we care for. 

The simplest and the easiest way to improve these relationships is to like people more. Once you train yourself to consistently like and to appreciate people for what they are now, you bring in a positive bias when dealing with them. 

Also, when you assume positive intent from people, it leads to greater cooperation. It would mean that you are more open to feedback from people and every criticism would be construed positively. 

When you like people and are liked in return, it also improves your sphere of influence. 

2. Accumulate micro moments of positivity 

Turning most of your emotions into positive ones and finding pleasure in the little things ensures a greater feeling of well being than even large positive occurances. 

Why wait for a promotion or a vacation or acquiring a new house to feel good and fortunate? Seize the chance to feel good every little while by the small things. Engage in small talk or say a hello to the people you meet everyday. Take a path through the beautiful park on the way to work. Feed the birds in your lunch break. Savour a simple meal. Celebrate your kids ‘ good performance at school. Be generous. Help someone. 

Each day brings in new possibilities which you can turn into joyful encounters. These little moments of positivity accumulate and have a far reaching impact on a feeling of well being. 

3. Share the Joy 

People are the greatest influencers when it comes to life. Surround yourself with people who are happy, positive and who bring a lot of energy and commitment to whatever they do. Their attributes rub off on you. Your network and the people you spend the most time with indicates what you would become. So, get the good people and let them do the job of transforming you. 

Add wonderous joy to your life by sharing positive emotions and experiences with your friends. It is considered to be one of the best ways to foster a sense of connectedness. Watching a movie or a game together, going for a walk, sharing a meal or even sharing a bit of good news is considered to be a great mood booster. 

Savour the good moments in your life and share them with happy, exuberant people. 

And that’s it. You are happier! 

Try the lazy way to greater happiness and share your thoughts in the comments below. 

This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend.