Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Firsts - November 20

The first line can make or break a reader’s interest. Just how well did the author pull you in to the story with their first sentence?

I'm slowly making my way through Miracle At Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention by Catherine Drinker Bowen (ISBN: 978-0316103985). Here's the first line:

"Over Philadelphia the air lay hot and humid; old people said it was the worst summer since 1750."

For me, this was a really good first sentence. I already knew that the founders suffered through a nasty summer while drafting the Constitution, and this goes that much further to tell me it was the worst summer in 37 years. Miracle at Philadelphia is historical non-fiction, but it is written as a narrative rather than an analysis. It tells the story of the Constitutional Convention, and I chose this book because it has been called one of the best scholarly narratives on the convention. So far, I'm really liking it. The narrative style is interesting and it is keeping my attention. The whole first paragraph does an excellent job of setting the stage, and pulling the reader into the environment that the founders were living in. Starting with the second sentence:
A diarist noted that cooling thunderstorms were not so frequent or violent as formerly. Perhaps the new "installic rods" [Franklin's lightning rods] everywhere fixed on the houses might have robbed the clouds of their electric fluid. French visitors wrote home that they could not breathe. "At each inhaling of air, one worries about the next one. The slightest movement is painful."
I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to reading more.

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