Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Moment You Know

Whenever I'm reading a book, there is sometimes a sentence that lets me know this is my kind of a story, a book I will love.

Occasionally ‒ very occasionally ‒ it will be the first sentence, the one that we're all taught as writers is the most important. More often than not, though, the sentence sneaks up on me, blindsides me while I am reading, and gives me that wonderful moment of knowing this novel will be something special.

A case in point: To reward myself for finishing The Firebird, I ordered a few out-of-print books by Dinah Dean (who wrote The Road to Kaluga, a favourite of mine). They arrived, and I happily sat down to start one: The Ice King, which starts with a very good first sentence, by which we're introduced to the young heroine, Tanya Kirova. The first page or so recounts Tanya's becoming an orphan and going to live with "The General", her great uncle, who had been an artilleryman and who set out to give her a broad education, shaped by his own interests.

"By the time she was eighteen, Tanya could calculate the charge and elevation necessary to fire a shell from a Unicorn howitzer on a given trajectory, or plan a route of march for an army from Brest-Litovsk to Barcelona, and could have found her way about the principal buildings of Moscow or St. Petersburg, if she ever managed to visit either city, which seemed unlikely as the General and his wife never travelled."

And that was the sentence, for me. I just knew, from that moment, that I'd love the book. And I did.

It's a random thing, really, and totally personal, but I still treasure the moment it happens. Do you have these moment of knowing, like I do? What tells you you're going to love a book?

(Sorry I'm late with this. Julie will be here on Thursday, with her next post).


  1. It's often a sentence as it is for you, one that both stops me to linger and urges me to hurry on into the story. Or the author has captured a strong character voice and lets us see a character's sense of humor (self-deprecating or self-aware humor is always attractive) early on.

  2. I'm just so gosh-darn excited to hear that you have finished FIREBIRD, which appears to be a sort-of-sequel to THE WINTER SEA!!