Is there anything more likely to raise the goosebumps on your arms than an emphatic first line? We don’t think so, so we’ve taken a stroll through the Women’s Prize Library and found some of our favourites…

There but for the by Ali Smith

There but for the

by Ali Smith

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The fact is, imagine a man sitting on an exercise bike in a spare room. He’s a pretty ordinary man except that across his mouth it looks like he’s wearing letterbox flaps.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Visit from the Goon Squad

by Jennifer Egan

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It began the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel. Sasha was adjusting her yellow eye shadow in the mirror when she noticed a bag on the floor beside the sink that must have belonged to the woman whose peeing she could faintly hear through the vaultlike door of a toilet stall.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

White Teeth

by Zadie Smith

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Early in the morning, late in the century, Cricklewood Broadway. At 06.27 hours on 1 January 1975, Alfred Archibald Jones was dressed in corduroy and sat in a fume-filled Cavalier Musketeer Estate face down on the steering wheel, hoping the judgement would not be too heavy upon him.

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

by Eimear McBride

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For you. You’ll soon. You’ll give her name. In the stitches of her skin she’ll wear your say. Mammy me? Yes you. Bounce the bed, I’d say. I’d say that’s what you did. Then lay you down. They cut you round, Wait and hour and day.


by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Princeton, in the summer, smelled of nothing, and although Ifemulu liked the tranquil greenness of the many trees, the clean streets and stately homes, the delicately overpriced shops and the quiet, aibiding air of earned grace, it was this, the lack of a smell that most appealed to her, perhaps because the other American cities she knew well had all smelled distinctly.

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht

The Tiger’s Wife

by Téa Obreht

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In my earliest memory, my grandfather is as bald as a stone and he takes me to see the tigers. He puts on his hat, his big-buttoned raincoat, and I wear my lacquered shoes and velvet dress. It is autumn, and I am four years old.

A Mercy by Toni Morrison

A Mercy

by Toni Morrison

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Don’t be afraid. My telling can’t hurt you in spite of what I have done and I promise to lie quietly in the dark – weeping perhaps or occasionally seeing the blood once more – but I will never again unfold my limbs to rise up and bare teeth.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

by Maria Semple

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The first annoying thing is when I ask Dad what he thinks happened to Mom, he always says, ‘What’s most important is for you to understand it’s not your fault.’ You’ll notice that wasn’t even the question. When I press him, he says the second annoying thing, ‘The truth is complicated. There’s no way one person can ever know everything about another person.’

All the Birds, Singing

by Evie Wyld

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Another sheep, mangled and bled out, her innards not yet crusting and the vapours rising from her like a steamed pudding. Crows, their beaks shining, strutting and rasping, and when I waved my stick they flew to the trees and watched, flaring out their wings, singing, if you could call it that.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

by Gillian Flynn

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When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of it, to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the head I saw, there was something lovely about it, the angles of it.