First and Last Lines – and the World in Between

Before we went on vacation some time ago, we wrote a blog on last lines in books. Today, we have the origins of those lines for anyone who is interested. But as we were thinking about this blog, we wondered what the relationship is between last lines and first lines of books. So we looked up the first lines of our last liners and have also included them below. Some of them are neat and tidy. Isabel Allende in HOUSE OF SPIRITS purposefully ends up where she began. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle begins THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES at breakfast and ends it at dinner.

In others though, the first line and the last line might as well be from different books there is so little apparent relation between them. These examples remind us of how far we travel when we read a book.

**So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. –F. Scott Fitzgerald, THE GREAT GATSBY

First lines: In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

**But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before. –Mark Twain, THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN

First lines: 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. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.

**Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you? –Ralph Ellison, INVISIBLE MAN

First Line: I am an invisible man

**“Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” –Ernest Hemingway, THE SUN ALSO RISES

First Lines: Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn.

**Might I trouble you then to be ready in half an hour, and we can stop at Marcini’s for a little dinner on the way? –Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES

First Line: Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table.

**Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper. –Arthur Golden, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA

First Lines: Suppose that you and I were sitting in a quiet room overlooking a garden, chatting and sipping at our cups of green tea while we talked about something that had happened a long while ago, and I said to you, "That afternoon when I met so-and-so…was the very best afternoon of my life, and also the very worst afternoon."

**Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him—and it was still hot

First Lines: The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another his mother called him "WILD THING!" and Max said "I'LL EAT YOU UP!" so he was sent to bed without eating anything.

**There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can't fix it, you've got to stand it. –Annie Proulx, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

First Lines: Ennis Del Mar wakes before five, wind rocking the trailer hissing in an around the aluminum door and window frames. The shirts hanging on a nail shudder slightly in the draft.

**It begins like this: Barrabás came to us by sea… – Isabel Allende, THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS

First Line: 'Barabbas came to us by sea', the child Clara wrote in her delicate calligraphy.