99 vs. 1

Anna in Brentwood reports:

Which is more likely to make you want to read—and/or give you an overall impression of—a book: its first line, as celebrated by the American Book Review, or its 99th page, as suggested by Ford Madox Ford, and recently covered by The Guardian and this blog?

I don’t know the answer to this question, but it is interesting to compare the first line and (short, as it also contains the wonderful illustration below) 99th page of one of my favorites from the American Book Review’s list, C.S. LewisThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

First line:
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

99th page:

Caspian would never have sailed away and left him. And he felt sure that somehow or other he would be able to make people understand who he was.

He took a long drink and then (I know this sounds shocking, but it isn’t if you think it over) he ate nearly all the dead dragon. He was halfway through it before he realized what he was doing; for, you see, though his mind was the mind of Eustace, his tastes and his digestion were dragonish.

Personally, I want to read (and reread!) both of those books. Also, Eustace is still my favorite, as he has been ever since I first made his acquaintance thanks to Lewis’ wonderful and unforgettable introduction. Perhaps the truth is that, like Narnia, it doesn’t matter how you stumble into a book, so long as you get there in the end.

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