The usual furore over the Man Booker Prize is now diminishing but as always I could not help but be intrigued. 

It’s one of world’s largest monetary literary prize awards giving £ 50,000 to the winner. On top of this international success and world-wide renown is guaranteed for the winner and a sure-bet for the short-listed books. 

So, what are the winning and short-listed books like? 

Here is a taster with the first sentence of each of them…enjoy!


‘Listen. Dead people never stop talking. Maybe because death is not death at all, just a detention after school.’


‘Turin is where the famous shroud is from, the one showing Christ’s body supine after crucifixion: hands folded over genitals, eyes closed, head crowned with thorns.’


‘We were fishermen: My brothers and I became fishermen in January of 1996 after our father moved out of Akure, a town in the west of Nigeria, where we had lived together all our lives.’


‘Randeep Sanghera stood in front of the green-and-blue map tacked to the wall.’


‘Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny.’

little life

‘The eleventh apartment had only one closet, but it did have a sliding glass door that opened onto a small balcony, from which he could see a man sitting across the way, outdoors in only a T-shirt and shorts, even though it was October, smoking.’

Source: BBC online news.

Did any tempt? Do you now want to buy any of the books and read on?  

Also, for all writers out there take comfort in the fact that Marlon James at one stage deleted his first novel following numerous rejections, only to revive it later when he discovered it in an email!

31 thoughts on “FIRST SENTENCES…

    1. Thank you! When I came across these sentences I just had to share and since enjoyed reading further into each book and will read at least a couple in the future. The first sentence(s) are so important so I guess that’s why we stress about them, although in the book I’m writing the first sentence came easy – it’s just the all the others ….ha, ha!

  1. Annika, not sure this is the right place to post this,but wanted to thank you once more for your support and for popping in and liking my short story, Under Cover. A difficult subject I know, but so pleased you came and read it. 🙂

    1. Carol, I know, I realised afterwards that I should have said that was the winner! Great first line but reading further of them all must say others tempted me more…some made it onto my Chrsitmas list even. As always, thank you for your comment. 😀

  2. Mike

    Mmmm. I’m always wary of Mann Booker Books. It’s probably me but I think many are bought but never finished.

    I’m afraid the only one which would tempt me to read further is the first book.


    1. I do think some great books come through Man Booker Prize so I can’t discount it so easily. It was interesting to read the first sentences and then I read more of them all and I changed my mind considerably which ones I would like to finish reading. Always worth a closer look.

    1. The first one is actually the winner and I must say that is my favourite as it stands by itself. They are all very interesting and has me reading first sentences of books more closely. Thank you for commenting.

    1. I agree that they are all literary fiction and yes, being such require more thought processing than a ‘beach read’. However I don’t believe this has to preclude that there is also a form of coherence and entertainment / interest along the way. At least one has made it to my Christams list as I delved further into the books!

    1. Your comment made me do just that, have a virtual thumb through the beginnings of all these books, starting with the Anne Tyler book as I have read many of her previous novels. I was immediately enticed and wanted to read on and on. It’s now on my Christmas list (I reckon you’re never too old for one!). Some of the others snared me, others not so much.

  3. Peter R

    Hmmm. All good first lines, but a book has to have a good last line, and an interesting/exciting bit to join them. Let us know if you read any, and maybe they will join the reading list.

    1. I like that Peter, how true and all novels should be like that. I recommend having a glance through them to see what takes your fancy and also look at the blurb. The winner starts with long list of characters…

    1. I must admit I don’t know if I’ll read any – I’ve read some past winners. I do like the premise behind the winning entry and definitely hooked by the first line. However it’s told in 75 voices and is supposed to be hard slog over 630 pages long! I’ll see…not a beach read that’s for sure!

    1. Absolutely! What map? Where is Randeep going? And why? It opens up a host of questions that demand to be answered! I’m intrigued to know which ones you don’t think work so well. I have difficulty being drawn in by Anne Tyler – a surprise as I have many of her books and also the McCarthy one does not tempt me to buy.

      1. Probably all personal reasons. I tend not to read religious books. And the ones that start with dates don’t really grab me. I lived through the 80’s already! Ha ha. That said, I will always read more than the 1st sentence when deciding on a book. The blurb and the first few pages at least.

        1. That’s interesting as in my WIP I was deliberating whether to set a date early on to cement the era but decided against it, just didn’t feel right. I checked out the Anne Tyler book and that seems really good, the Turin shroud quote is more obscure, with a narrator ‘U’, who seems to ponder his existence endlessly throughout the novel. The blurb is so important but I find it more difficult to see on ebooks, so often end up reading reviews.

          1. The date thing may just be me. Some people will see that a book is written in a particular era (gangsters. WWII, renaissance, etc.) and be immediately hooked. Even though I’m a fantasy writer, I’m very leery of anything with elves and dwarves. It’s one of the things that I love about writing and books – there are so many different readers out there, we should just write what we love.

  4. Well, all of these first lines grabbed my attention. What a great bunch of opening lines. I read a review the other day by someone who said he/she (?) was going to do one a week for the next few weeks and I meant to look up the list, but, of course, hadn’t yet, so I appreciate you doing my research for me. I’m definitely intrigued now. (As a teacher, though, I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to talk during detention; I guess you can’t expect the dead to follow rules!)

    1. I always wondered what the writing was like of the short-listed books so I was pleased to come across this little ‘taster’ delight. So glad you feel the same. Yes, I reckon the dead have their own rules! Although I think here the author is aiming to show the supposed transitory nature of death.

  5. Mirja

    “Listen. Dead people never stop talking. Maybe because death is not death at all, just a detention after school.’
    This quote by Marlon James is so good and made me intrigued enough to go on the net to read about the background of violence on Jamaica.

    So much Hanya Yanaghara tells in his opening sentence. The feel of the whole book.

    Thank you Annika, it is another great posting – and educating.:)

    1. Mirja, A Little Life is quickly atmospheric and I would hope this is retained throughout the book. The story behind Marlon James’s book is fascinating and the title itself an ironic dig at the ‘Concise Oxford Dictionary’ which is anything but concise! Great you liked the post – I found these fascinating to read myself.

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