We all remember those classic lines that stay with us for years after reading a book. The CAE Book Groups team share its favourite lines from books old and new.

Classic Opening Lines

Jane Eyre“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre


This line perfectly sets up Bronte’s mysterious and romantic novel. With an unforgettable heroine and setting, this classic still transports me to the brooding Thornfield Hall whenever I read it, and always makes me wonder what or who could be locked away in a hidden room.


1984“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

George Orwell, 1984


Orwell’s classic is eerily relevant today. When the clocks strike thirteen, you know you’re in a nightmarish dystopian world that is evocative and intense. I’m looking forward to a reread of this book and revisiting Orwell’s perceptive world to see how reflective of our own it actually is. Every time a clock chimes, I’m still listening for that thirteenth strike…


Pride & Prejudice“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man is possession of a good fortune, must be in a want of a wife.”

Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice


Still a romantic classic, Austen’s novel is timeless with an instantly recognisable opening. I read this book often and the miniseries is a favourite. The relationship between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy is the central one in the novel, but I also really enjoy the dynamic between the Bennet sisters. Mr Bennet is also a fantastic character and has some of the other great lines in the novel.


The Hobbit“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit


Once I read this line from Tolkien, I can’t help but be thrown into his immensely intricate fantasy world. I read this book a bit later in life when I studied fantasy literature at university, and found it more endearing and adventurous than the saga of The Lord of the Rings. Bilbo Baggins is a character I’d really like to have afternoon tea with, or even “elevenses”.


Peter Pan“All children, except one, grow up.”

JM Barrie, Peter Pan


This joyful and wistful novel still resonates with all of us who never quite grew up. I remember reading this as a child but it’s a wonderful world to revisit many years later. I’m still waiting for the fairy dust and thinking happy thoughts, just in case the opportunity to fly comes along!


Favourite Quotes


The Handmaid's Tale“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.” 
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale


This dystopian novel and popular TV series is now beginning to reflect our world. I remember studying this in secondary school and how strange the themes seemed, yet they are still relevant story – perhaps more so now than ever. I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel, The Testaments, due out in September this year.


The Immortalists“She knows that stories have the power to change things: the past and the future, even the present.” 
Chloe Benjamin, The Immortalists


A new addition to Dialogue in 2020, this line gives an insight into this brilliantly evocative novel about fate. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it made me wonder how I would live my life if I knew my future – would I be more careful or carefree?


Watership Down“My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.”

Richard Adams, Watership Down


I first read this book as a teenager and was amazed how the intricacy of the writing allows great empathy for the characters. I still reread at least once a year, and Hazel is quite possibly my favourite book character of all time. Whether you read it as a simple story about rabbits or an allegory about people and conflict, it is still a compelling read.


The Road“Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden.” 

Cormac McCarthy, The Road


McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel can get very bleak at times, but this line gives hope to characters in a dark world. It always reminds me to have hope in humanity in difficult situations, and keep going in spite of adversity.


The Rosie Project“And it dawned on me that I had not designed the questionnaire to find a woman I could accept, but to find someone who might accept me.”

Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project


This irreverent and often heartfelt novel has many classic Don Tillman observations, but this is one of the most endearing. I found Don to be a character who can be frustrating at times, but love the lines that remind me that it’s okay to be yourself and let the world accept you.



We would love to hear your favourite book quotes! Share it with us at bookgroups@cae.edu.au.


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