Five Books. Five Pages that Grabbed Me.

Much is made of a novel’s first five pages. I love to be hooked by page five, myself—if not by page one, paragraph one, or even sentence one. I’ve assembled five of many books that riveted me from the start. With these, I knew in the opening that I’d have read to the end. These stories all happen to alternate between the past and present.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig – Let’s review a couple of lines, and I think you’ll see what I mean.

Page one: “I often think of what Hendrich said to me, over a century ago, in his New York apartment. ‘The first rule is that you don’t fall in love,’ he said.” The narrator has a rare condition that makes him “old in the way that a tree, or a quahog clam, or a Renaissance painting is old.”

I knew in the first five pages that this book promised to feed my craving for a guided tour through history. And the narrator’s voice was smart and fun. And, the narrator wanted desperately to find someone about whom he cared.

Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese – As if the metallic gold, textured cover and the endpaper just inside—bearing a woman’s portrait—weren’t enough to suck me in, the prologue transported me. On page one, readers are treated to the author’s lovely sensory detail as a 1938 party revs up in a glittering Austrian ballroom. But by the end of the page, news that Hitler’s army is on the way changes everything. Rarely have I read opening pages so filled with tension, dread, action, and fear, contrasted by such beauty.

Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty by Ramona Ausubel – The story opens in 1976 with saltwater and sailboats and pies and muffins. There’s children in shorts and sailor shirts, and their mom and their dad who are ready for summer. By the fourth page, we learn the wife’s parents have died. Then,

‘“There’s no more money,’ she said to [her husband] through the wind. ‘The money is gone.’ It was like announcing a death. The long-ago earning of that money—slaves, cotton, rum—and the spending of it, were done. The money had lived its own life, like a relative.”

I couldn’t wait to see how (or if) this couple who had lived off the fat of their family survived this blow. Add to that, I wanted to read more of this author’s fascinating prose.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes – In 1886, a Chinese girl’s father pushes her off a boat into the icy Puget Sound waters of the Washington territory. “Do not disappoint me, Daughter.” She has a mission for her family.

Why? I had to know.

By page three, we open to modern day Washington State, and a woman on a ferry. She’s in route to a place she hasn’t wanted to see in years—the estate built by Duncan Campbell, her lumber baron great-great-great-grandfather.

How are the two stories connected? I had to know.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum – The prologue begins with the funeral of Trudy Swenson’s father in the bitter cold of Minnesota. I’m hooked by Blum’s vivid imagery and the dysfunction displayed with Trudy’s mother of German descent—and when, upon returning to her parents’ home, Trudy discovers her father’s clothes are already stuffed into garbage bags. By the end of the chapter, there’s another surprise and I cannot stop reading! I have to know the horrible secrets that Trudy’s mother, a survivor of WWII, has never spoken of.

BONUS!  Blum’s books have amazing first chapters, and also amazing last chapters. I highly recommend her latest novel, The Lost Family. The final five pages made me cry . . . and I love when endings make me cry.

What novels grabbed you in the first five pages?


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