The opening chapter – it must really work, we’re taught. Maybe it’s the bit a potential agent would read. Maybe it’s the bit that a browser in a bookshop will look at. Maybe it’s the bit that will make a reader decide whether to carry on reading …
One of the most exciting opening chapters I’ve read is that of Enduring Love by Ian McEwan. This was recommended by our creative writing tutor, and as soon as I read it I could see why. Its dramatic account of a balloon ride gripped me. I think of it every time I drive down the escarpment on the M40 where it’s set (going towards Oxford, near Stokenchurch – as in the film shown during the opening credits of ‘The Vicar of Dibley’). Curiously, after that amazing start, the subject matter of the rest of the book drifts away from balloons. But that opening definitely made me read on.
The opening chapter of the book I’m reading now, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, is another Must Read On one. Its description of the abandoned and overgrown Manderley is all the more evocative as it’s a dream, and reads with all the mystery and menace that a dream can have.
What opening chapters stay in your memory?