book beginnings on Friday: Shirley by Susan Scarf Merrell

Thanks to Rose City Reader for hosting this meme. To participate, share the first line or two of the book you are currently reading and, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line.


This is a new novel about Shirley Jackson, styled after that author’s own creepy-crawly work. It begins:

“You have green eyes,” she said. I handed her my end of the fitted sheet and she tucked the corners deftly together, folded again to make a smooth square, her knob-knuckled fingers making quick work of a task I’d never had to do. Bed-making I knew too well, but, oh, the luxury of a second set of sheets!

“No,” I said. “My eyes are blue.”

How’s that for a spooky beginning? Coupled with that cover – good stuff!

This quotation comes from an uncorrected advance proof and is subject to change.

2 Responses

  1. Wow. I love the beginning of the novel, SHIRLEY: I love the declaration of eye color that turns out to be wrong, and the knob-knuckled fingers. I love the way we learn about the narrator growing up without money. Plus there is something gripping, to me as someone who has folded many sheets, about this moment of sheet folding with another woman.

    Here is the opening line of the book I am reading (Rebecca Mead’s MY LIFE IN MIDDLEMARCH):

    “When I was seventeen years old and still living in the seaside town where I spent my childhood, I would go for a few hours every Sunday morning to the home of a retired teacher of English literature to talk about books.”

    The line is from the prologue of the book and I enjoy the way this 17-year-old girl is heading off in a British seaside town to discuss books with an older woman. I think the moment I read the sentence I felt confident that I would enjoy the book, that I was in the hands of someone who loves to read and talk about books. And to know that this 17-year-old girl would grow up to be a woman who has read and reread MIDDLEMARCH many times made me smile.

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