S9~ The First and the Last

This week’s sandbox was a sort of study of first and last lines of books.  It is actually really interesting to compare them — especially since I haven’t read 9 of the 10 books I chose.  XD

This is for the most part a collection of first and last lines from books on my list to either read or finish reading this summer.  The only exception is Pride and Prejudice, which I included simply because I love the opening line.  In other words, expect the selection to be extraordinarily random.


Nicholas Nickleby

Charles Dickens

“There once lived, in a sequestered part of the county of Devonshire, one Mr. Godfrey Nickleby:  a worth gentleman, who, taking it into his head rather late in life that he must get married, and not being young enough or rich enough to aspire to the hand of a lady of fortune, had wedded an old flame out of mere attachment, who in her turn had taken him for the same reason.”

“Through all the spring and summer-time, garlands of fresh flowers, wreathed by infant hands, rested on the stone; and, when the children came to change them lest they should wither and be pleasant to him no longer, their eyes filled with tears, and they spoke low and softly of their poor dead cousin.”

‘Tis a beast.

I am 582 pages through this 792-page beast (which only got beastlier after I dropped it in a puddle one rainy day).  I got this book in December of 2013, and have been getting to it on and off between school and other books.  The opening line to this one, I think does a great job at setting Dicken’s realistic, yet sarcastic tone for the book, as well introducing the setting of the main character, Godfrey Nickleby’s grandson, Nicholas.  As for the closing line, I have not gotten to that part yet, so I do not know who the dead cousin is.  But the sentence seems to show a lull of seasons and generations to be the sort of lacy swirl at the end of the words.   

 Mere Christianity

C.S. Lewis

“Every one has heard people quarrelling.”

“But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

This is one of the books I have wanted in theory to read for a long time, but just never got around to it.  When I opened the book to figure out the first line for this assignment, I was a little surprised at what it was.  Needless to say, I think Lewis does a great job of using it to catch readers off guard and draw them in to see what he has to say.  The closing line sounds like something a wise, old magician would say, or maybe something that would be inscribed around the edges of a faded treasure map:  It is a challenge to a greater adventure.

 Giants in the Earth

O.E. Rölvaag

“Bright, clear sky over a plain so wide that the rim of the heavens cut down on it around the entire horizon….”

“His eyes were set towards the west.”

I got this book for Christmas 2014, and I have not gotten the chance to read it yet.  Based on the back cover, though, I have figured out that it is about Norwegian immigrants to Dakota Territory.  The opening line struck me as the author taking a broad-tipped paintbrush and painting a sweeping line over my head, setting the scene for the sweeping vision and determination of the pioneers.  It also brings you visually from the sky overhead down to the horizon and the earth.  The closing line seems to capture, again, the determination of the immigrants.  Something that caught my fancy when I compared the opening and closing lines of this book are how they both paint a picture of a visionary, Norwegian immigrant’s eyes – bright, clear eyes the color of the prairie sky.

 The Master Plan of Evangelism

Robert E. Coleman

“It all started by Jesus calling a few men to follow Him.”

“The relevance of all that we do waits upon its verdict, and in turn, the destiny of the multitudes hangs in the balance.”

This is a book Dad has recommended to me and that I was technically supposed to read a couple of summers ago.  But guess what happened?  I didn’t get to that one either.  When I typed up these opening and closing lines, what stood out to me was how these two sentences, even though begin and end a nonfiction book, sound like the beginning and ending of a quest.  And the more I think about it, that is probably what they are.

 Mansfield Park

Jane Austen

“About thirty years ago, Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences of a handsome house and large income.”

“On that event removed to Mansfield; and the parsonage there, which, under each of its two former owners, Fanny had never been able to approach but with some painful sensation of restraint or alarm, soon grew as dear to her heart, and as thoroughly perfect in her eyes, as everything else within the view and patronage of Mansfield Park had long been.”

I have started this book on audio, on my Nook, and on paper, and I don’t think I ever got past the first handful of chapters.  I want to read it because of the parts I did get to read, I think it will have an interesting storyline, but I have to make time for it, too.  The first sentence of this book is similar to the beginning of Nicholas Nickleby, I think, in that it does a great job at capturing Jane Austen’s sarcasm as well as introducing the of the characters and the contrasts between those in higher and lower circumstances that the book is going to explore (I read enough of it to gather that much).  The last sentence, I cannot say as much about since I do not know what exactly happens in between it and where I left off reading.  However, it seems to recap some of the history of the book with the different owners of the parsonage and resolve the protagonist’s happiness at the title estate.

 Do Hard Things

Alex and Brett Harris

“Most people don’t expect you to understand what we’re going to tell you in this book.”

“We do hard things.”

Okay.  That first line is great.  It totally pulls you in to figure out just it is that they are going to tell you in this book that people don’t expect you to understand.  Also, it sets the tone of the book – one that cuts across all the current and easy expectations generally advertised in our culture.  And the last sentence captures the same mood, summing up the entire message of the book in a short, cutting sentence:  “We do hard things.”  I also feel like the use of ‘we’ in the both the first and last sentences helps to create a sense of identity and comradery.  Initially, the authors use it because there are two of them writing this book.  By the end, I feel like it is a battle cry for an army.  This is a book I both want to read as well as one I am supposed to read for school.

 Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

‘His own words are a pledge of this:—  “My Master,” he says, “has forewarned me.  Daily he announces more distinctly,— ‘Surely I come quickly!’ and hourly I more eagerly respond,— ‘Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!’”’

I started this book several years ago, and got a little discouraged by the amount of vocabulary words to look up (and I am not kidding – there is on average one word or poetic reference per page in this book).  I want to finish reading it, but have not yet gotten the chance.  About the opening line – I think it does a great job of pulling readers into the plot and not starting with a whole bunch of complicated background in formation.  Part of Jane Eyre’s character is that there is a lot of background information you do not know about her and have to uncover as you go.  Also, it does a great job of introducing the dismal world Jane lives in at the beginning.  I am not sure who exactly the ‘he’ is in the last line, but it closes with the closing line of the Bible, so what can I complain about?

 So Much More

Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin

‘“The world is a mess, and it’s our fault.”’

‘“…Choose this day whom you will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)’

I started this book when I was nine, and I do not think nine-year-olds were the Botkin sisters intended audience for this book.  It was a little above my head, and I remember it took me more than fifteen minutes to read the first fifteen pages.  I have not gotten back to this book since, but I want to read it, too.  I think the first sentence is a great attention-getter.  Of course, readers will immediately want to know ‘Is it really such a mess?’ and ‘Is it really my fault?’  The last line poses a Scriptural challenge, and that is what the thrust of the book is:  challenging daughters to a renewed definition of kingdom purpose based on Scripture.

 North and South

Elizabeth Gaskell

‘“Edith!” said Margaret gently, “Edith!”’

‘“Hush!” said Margaret, “or shall I try and show your mother’s indignant tones as she says, ‘That woman!’”’

It is interesting that this book starts and ends with a quote by the same person.  I think both the beginning and the end show something of Margaret’s character (I believe she is the protagonist), showing her as gentle, and yet with a sharp sense of humor.  My mom read this book recently, and from the things I hear of the book and the bits I have seen of the miniseries, it seems well worth the time to read the 400-some pages.

 Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

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

“Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them.”

I have read this one before, but I love the opening line is one of my absolute favorites, and so I included it anyways.  The first sentence does such an excellent job of demonstrating Jane Austen’s amazing sarcasm!  In addition to making you snicker at the wit, it also hints at the plot which is basically a romance (although it is really more of a backdrop for a character study).  The last line shows Darcy and Lizzy united and their character developed from the pride and prejudice they both struggle with in the beginning.

You made it to the bottom of the list! Congratulations!!!! ❤

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