With all due respect to the high-budget film series produced by Warner Bros., the real magic of the Harry Potter series has always been the books – the complex plots, the details that come together and the graceful British humor have made them a must-read. Even their opening line alone—"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, residents of Privet Road number four, knew how to proudly report that they were perfectly normal, and thank you for asking"—gained cult status.
Now, in Amazon's survey of British readers for the best opening lines in the history of fiction, this legendary line has gained wide recognition, but has lost to several other opening lines. We used ChatGPT to bring up the list of winners.
In first place, with 29% of the vote, came the overture to Charles Dickens's 1859 book Between Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
In second place was the chilling opening line to George Orwell's legendary 1984 (1948): "It was a clear, cold April day, and the clocks rang thirteen." She received 24% of the vote.
Strangely, third place was picked up by the very unimpressive line "In a den in the ground lives a hobbit," from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937), with 22% of the vote.
A similar figure was achieved by the opening line of Sir James Matthew Barry's Peter Pan (1911): "All children grow up—except one."
In fifth place is the opening line of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997), also with 22% of the vote.
Reports on the survey in the British press noted that Joan Rowling's book reached a decidedly respectable place despite the fact that in recent years she has been at the center of a major controversy due to her identification with the so-called TERFs (an acronym for "radical feminists from transgender apartments"), so much so that she was not invited to meetings and reunion interviews of the cast of films based on her books, and was even publicly condemned by some.
Helen Joyce, advocacy director at Sex Matters, a human rights group that advocates clarifying sexual issues in law and everyday life, said: "No matter how hard transgender extremist activists try to ruin J.K. Rowling's life and name, they fail. She remains one of the most popular and beloved writers in the world."
The survey also revealed that a significant proportion of British readers (43%) believe that the first lines of a book can make a book a success or failure; 64% of respondents admitted that they stopped reading a book if the opening failed to capture their attention, and 69% believe that a powerful first chapter affects the entire reading experience; 38% claimed that the first lines of their favorite books left such a strong impression that they remember them by heart. 63% believe they can identify a book they have read and loved by the opening line alone.
Wrong? We'll fix it! If you find a mistake in the article, please share with us