Saturday, December 19, 2009

Liberal England book quiz: Twenty opening sentences

A little fun for the Christmas season. Below are the opening sentences of 20 works of fiction (a handful of them written for children). Please leave the title and author in the comments below. I shall fill the answers in as they are guessed.

The winner gets tea at Bonkers Hall (terms and conditions apply).

The opening sentences

1. Marley was dead: to begin with.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

2. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it was Court Hand and Summulae Logicales, while the rest of the week it was the Organon, Repetition and Astrology.
The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White
3. To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.
Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess
5. Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.
Middlemarch by George Eliot

6. They changed trains at Shrewsbury.
Mystery at Witchend by Malcolm Saville
7. Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born; on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events; the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter.
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

8. "Take my camel, dear," said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.
The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay
9. A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
10. As the manager of the Performance sits before the curtain on the boards and looks into the Fair, a feeling of profound melancholy comes over him in his survey of the bustling place.
Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
11. There were four of us - George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency.
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

12. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking Thirteen.
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
13. The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
14. When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

15. One morning a large wooden case was brought to the farmhouse, and Bevis, impatient to see what was in it, ran for the hard chisel and the hammer, and would not consent to put off the work of undoing it for a moment.
Bevis: The Story of a Boy by Richard Jefferies
16. Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
17. We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
18. The suburb of Saffron Park lay on the sunset side of London, as red and ragged as a cloud of sunset.
The Man who was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

19. He sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammah on her brick platform opposite the old Ajaib-Gher – the Wonder House, as the natives call the Lahore Museum.
Kim by Rudyard Kipling

20. The education bestowed on Flora Poste by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged: and when they died within a few weeks of one another during the annual epidemic of the influenza or Spanish Plague which occurred in her twentieth year, she was discovered to possess every art and grace save that of earning her own living.
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons


Frank Little said...

1. "A Christmas Carol" Dickens
2. I should know, but don't
3. "The Grapes of Wrath" Steinbeck
4. "Earthly Powers" Anthony Burgess.
11. "Three Men in a Boat" JK Jerome
12. "Nineteen Eighty-Four" (or "1984") Orwell
15. "Bevis: the Story of a Boy" Richard Jefferies - or is that too obvious?
16. "Brighton Rock" Greene
19. "Kim" Kipling
20. "Cold Comfort Farm" Gibbons

All right, I know I'm not going to win, but it was fun trying.

Tom King said...

2 is from the Once and Future King (White).

7 might be Oliver Twist (Dickens)

13 might be from American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis).

I'm more of a poetry man.

Onlinefocus Team said...

Is No. 14 Day of the Triffids?

RutlandNed said...

8, Towers of Trebizond; Rose Macaulay
17, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas

Robert Hale said...

Is 18 The Man Who Was Thursday, by GK Chesterton?
And 13 is surely Ian Fleming's Casino Royale.

Chris Black:
I think you're right about 14.

Jonathan Calder said...

All guesses correct, except that 13 is Casino Royale not American Psycho.

2 is T.H. White, and The Once and Future King is sort of correct, but it is not what I have on the card.

Peter said...

6 Mystery at Witchend - Saville

Peter said...

9 It is the book I thought. But I didn't remember it as being the first line.

Robert Doyle said...

Two I could manage with resorting to Google:

No 9 is Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

Presumably No 2 should strictly be "Sword in the Stone" - the first book of T H White's "Once and Future King" tetralogy.

Jonathan Calder said...

Well done, Peter. I thought 6 was the one that would be too obscure.

And well done twice to Robert.

Frank Little said...

Guessing now:
2: "The Sword in the Stone"
9. "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" Dick
10. "Vanity Fair", Thackeray

Jonathan Calder said...

Yes, 10 is Vanity Fair.

Only one to get now.

Richard Gadsden said...

It's Middlemarch (Eliot), isn't it?

Jonathan Calder said...

It is.

Well done, everybody.

Peter said...

Should have got that...