Reading Readit: Beautiful sentences 11



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Sentences are interesting things. Their impact doesn’t depend on their length; they are used to convey much, or nothing. They have a structure which is both fixed and variable; in the hands of a master writer they paint pictures of beauty, horror or anything in between, sometimes both at once. They can leave a lasting impression on us, or dissolve immediately.

They are a necessity in literature and a good sentence makes you want more. Even in the world’s great books, there are sentences which leave you in awe of their impact.

Recently BuzzFeed published a list of 51 sentences their readers considered the most beautiful ever written see here.

I have chosen some of my favourites, in no particular order:

  • “At the still point, there the dance is.” —T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
  • “In our village, folks say God crumbles up the old moon into stars.” -Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  • “Beauty is an enormous, unmerited gift given randomly, stupidly.” -Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed
  •  “‘Dear God,’ she prayed, ‘let me be something every minute of every hour of my life.’” – Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” – John Steinbeck, East of Eden
  • “It might be that to surrender to happiness was to accept defeat, but it was a defeat better than many victories.” – W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage
  • “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” – Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank
  • “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
  • “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  • “Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty” – John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn
  • “One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.” – Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices
  • “The half life of love is forever.” – Junot Diaz, This Is How You Lose Her

My personal favourite are:

  • “The curves of your lips rewrite history.” – Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, it’s so Wildean, simultaneously impersonal and intimate.
  • “Only Connect” E M Forster, Howards End, used to great advantage in Willy Russell’s play “Educating Rita”.

I mentioned that a good sentence makes you want more; as proof, one of the above sentences comes from A Tree Grew in Brooklyn. I haven’t read this book, but this one sentence has piqued my interest and my to read list has a new addition.

Lists such as the above, and indeed the BuzzFeed list, are very subjective – is your favourite sentence in literature in either my list or the full list?

Perhaps you can’t understand how both lists left out your favourite sentence, so please share.

Karen OBrien Hall

Karen O'Brien-Hall followed many careers in her life and loved each one! From accountancy to the hospitality industry, from managing an employment agency to Executive Assistant to the Chairman of a multi-national, when she retired Karen was in Public Relations. Whatever her career path at the time, Karen is a lifelong volunteer. Married to "the love of my life", John, her second love is community theatre where she enjoys acting and directing. Karen enjoys time in her garden and can always finds time to read, around 8 – 10 books a month. Her reviews appear on Starts at Sixty, Goodreads,The Reading Room and her own page

  1. Really interesting, Karen. I think my favourite sentence, largely because of its irony and structure, is the first sentence of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, And the first sentence of “A Tale of Two Cities’ is often quoted.

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    • …. and I can quote both without referring to the book as can you I’m sure. They are beautifully constructed and say so much in so few words.

  2. I find the final sentence from Gone With The Wind surprisingly useful – “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”!

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    • I use those words too but I find strength in Scarlett’s words after Rhett leaves “What is there to do? What is there that matters? Tara! Home. I’ll go home. And I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all… tomorrow is another day! ”
      … know she’s going to bounce back.

  3. Each in its own way has a certain beauty, Karen. I could never disagree with your choices but would add one to the list if I may. I quote the last two-and-a-half lines from Elizabeth Barrett’s ode, “How Do I Love Thee” to her love, Robert Browning: ‘I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.’ Thank you for your article. I enjoyed re-reading every one of your chosen beautiful sentences

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  4. Great read Karen, if I may. Everything passes away, suffering, pain,blood, hunger, the sword will pass too. But the stars will remain when the shadows of our presence and deeds have vanished from the earth. There is no man who does not know this. Why, then will we not turn our eyes to the stars, why? Mikhail Bulgakov

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