A year in first lines: 2017


Many bloggers like to mark the end of a year with a look back over the last 12 months. I’ve not done this before but some recent posts from Lisa at ANZLitLovers and Sue at WhisperingGums alerted me to an interesting variation on the end-of-year meme.

This involves taking the first line of each month’s post in the past year to see what light it shines on the blogging year in general.

The ‘rule’ is to use the first sentence in the first post of each month.

I’ve had to bend this rule a little because I discovered that my first post was often a meme or in the Snapshot category. This is where I try to capture what I’m reading on the first day of the month, what I plan to read next and the state of my unread books collection (aka the TBR). Just using those posts for this exercise wouldn’t make for very interesting reading.

So I adopted my own rule where I selected the first substantive post of each month.

This is how the year worked out for me.

January 2017

Post Title: The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul

By the time they’ve reached the end of the novel, most readers of crime fiction expect to find the author has answered the key questions: who , committed the crime, how and why.

The Murder of Halland was published by Pereine Press in 2012 as part The Small Epic series. Translated from the Danish original by Martin Aitken.

February 2017

Post Title: Dominion by C. J Sansom

C.J Sansom took a gamble with his political thriller Dominion in which he imagines a world where, having failed to defeat the Nazi regime, Great Britain becomes one of Germany’s subject territories.

March 2017

Post Title: The Greatest Novels from Wales? #WritingWales

A few years ago, the Wales Arts Review magazine asked readers: Which is the Greatest Welsh Novel?

April 2017

Post Title: Tomorrow by Graham Swift

Some protagonists are designed to be annoying.  Some simply are that way.  But no matter how annoying, frustrating or distasteful they can still be fascinating and memorable for readers.

May 2017

Post Title: The Cheltenham Square Murders by John Bude

The town of Cheltenham has a reputation for being the rather genteel, upmarket part of Gloucestershire.

June 2017

Post Title: My Ántonia by Willa Cather

It’s taken me long enough but the experience of reading Willa Cather’s My Ántonia was well worth the wait.

July 2017 

Post Title: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

If you’d asked me a few weeks ago whether I’d be likely to enjoy a novel about everything from Zen and the meaning of time to the Japanese tsunami and environmental degradation, I’d probably have said no way.

August 2017

Post Title: Life and Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee

I approached J. M Coetzee’s Booker Prize winning novella The Life & Times of Michael K hoping against hope it would be easier to penetrate than the last novel I read by him: The Schooldays of Jesus

September 2017

Post Title: Between the lines: Jonathan Tulloch on Larkinland

Last week I posted my review of Larkinland a 2017 novel by Jonathan Tulloch which evokes the atmosphere of Hull as discovered by the poet Phillip Larkin.

October 2017

Post Title: Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Of all the books long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker prize, Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor was the one I most wanted to read.

November 2017 

Post Title: Chocky by John Wyndham #1968 club

Did you have an imaginary friend when you were a child? Apparently I did for a few months when I was about four years old.

December 2017

Post Title: Hag Seed by Margaret Atwood

I usually ignore reinterpretations and retellings of classic novels but the premise of Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed was so enticing I set aside my normal cynicism.

What does this tell me about my blogging year?

  • It reflects accurately that I’m a butterfly reader. I flit around a lot between classics (My Ántonia and Chocky), Booker prize winners  and contenders (Life and Times of Michael X  and A Tale for the Time Being) with a smattering of crime (Cheltenham Square Murders) and translated fiction (Murder of Halland).
  • Most of my posts are either reviews or memes (I do the Six Degrees of Separation and Top Ten Tuesday memes). The Between the Lines post in September is a new type of content for me this year where I do a Q&A with an author.
  • I’ve clearly not made much progress with two of my long term challenges (Classics Club and Literature around the World) since there were very few posts on books in those categories.
  • My new interest in fiction by authors and publishers in Wales is beginning to come through with three of the posts reflecting that topic.
  • I’ve read very very little new fiction this year.Reservoir 13 was published this year as was Larkinland. It’s not quite as dire as this set of first lines suggests but it doesn’t surprise me considering that one of my goals for 2017 was to read more of the books I already own rather than buy yet more.
  • My intro sentences need a bit of jazzing up. I know they are taken out of context which doesn’t help but they do sound rather dull to me.

Although the idea, which originated with The Indextrious Reader., is to use this exercise to reflect on the past year I’ve found it’s also been helpful in giving me some ideas for next year. I’d like to do more Between the Lines interviews for example. I think my interest in Top Ten Tuesday has fizzled out and will come to a dead end next year. I’ve already skipped many week’s prompts because I found the topic wasn’t that interesting. It was fun for a while but I’m feel I’m getting list fatique. But all that is still in the future since 2017 isn’t yet over…

If you are minded to play along with the Year in First Lines, but want some further inspiration take a look at what some of the other participants have published.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

15 thoughts on “A year in first lines: 2017

  • I think your intro sentences are excellent – they hint at your opinion of what’s to come. I tend to start my reviews with a mini-blurb before I go on to my opinions so this meme never works for me sadly – twelve first lines of blurbs aren’t nearly as enticing as your first lines… 😀

  • I love this! Wondering if I can squeeze one of these posts in…

  • Well, I love this, not least because I’ve discovered a post that I’d missed reading during the year!
    Re the idea of doing the whole year, I’d hesitate, only because I wouldn’t have time at this busy time of the year to read a long post like that, especially since I’m reading more than one First Lines plus also enjoying the Best-of-the-Year posts that are starting to flourish. I enjoy these snapshots just as they are, and for me the interesting reflection is, do the snapshots represent the blog, or do they give a misleading impression? I would say that your First Lines, like mine, are reasonably representative of what you do and why I like it.
    PS I like your intro sentences! They all have a hook, that gets me in every time!

  • Thanks for the link Karen. I’ve been waiting for this post for a couple of days, ever since you said you’d planned to do it. It was worth the wait!

    Now, my comments. As I started reading your first lines, I was thinking what great first lines! Then I saw your comment and wondered what on earth you were talking about. How would you jazz them up? (I ask that both seriously and rhetorically, btw).

    I’m not surprised about the Top Ten Tuesday meme. As a blog reader, I tend to find weekly list memes a bit hit-and-miss, though I prefer to read Top Tens to those In My Mailbox type ones. The Top Ten themes can be interesting. (Then again, I have my own weekly series, and it can be hit-and-miss too!)

    I like the idea of giving you suggestions for next year. My main one for myself is to get on with getting stuck into that TBR and read LESS new fiction!

    Anyhow, thanks for joining in. I did like the post – first substantive post is the way I went too.

  • I am very tempted to give this meme a go too. Like you, I wouldn’t choose my actually first post of each month though, because it is always my reflection post on the previous month which would make a very dull post 😛

    • i bet each one is not that dull but I do understand it would be repetitive

      • No really it would be as I start each reflection post with the same first line!!

  • I like this idea, but I thought it was going to be a full year of the first line of books 😀 I might do that one as my own and see what turns out. I’m sure most of mine this year have been “I’m tired,” or “where has time gone,” or “SQUEEEEE.”

    • you know I was thinking of that idea earlier on today just after I pressed ‘publish’. But then realise I no longer have the books I read so would have loads of gaps. Maybe I should keep a record for next year so I can do it then

      • Yeah it’d be easy for me as I put them in my posts 🙂

  • This is an interesting analysis you have done. I am big on analyses! As I am on a mad tear to finish lots of books this month, it sounds too hard for me. I have been called lazy before in my life and in my post retirement years I am owning it! But I always do a Top 25 list of my favorite books read each year, so I will stick with that at the end of the month. I am still pleased to have found your blog though!

    • Some habits never die do they? After years of scurrying at the end of the year to finish projects you’d have thought retirement would mean an absence of targets etc but here we are again …..


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