An irresistible page-turner is a wonderful thing, but the very greatest novels pack sentences so prevailing that you stop reading, lower the book and simply live in the words for a moment.
Here we pay tribute to our 40 most powerful sentences in novels.
Of Mice And Men
Author: John Steinbeck
"Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other."
Author: Ralph Ellison
“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.”
Author: Emily Brontë
"Terror made me cruel"
Author: James Ellroy
“Some men get the world, some men get ex-hookers and a trip to Arizona. You’re in with the former, but my God I don’t envy the blood on your conscience.”
On The Road
Author: Jack Kerouac
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
Author: George Orwell
"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
The Handmaid's Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
"We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories."
The Time Machine
Author: H.G. Wells
“It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning.”
Author: Leo Tolstoy
"It's much better to do good in a way that no one knows anything about it."
Author: Charlotte Brontë
"Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs."
Author: Cormac McCarthy
“You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.”
Author: Bret Easton Ellis
"There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there."
Author: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
A Room With A View
Author: E.M. Forster
“We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won’t do harm - yes, choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.”
Kafka on the Shore
Author: Haruki Murakami
"Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart."
Author: James Joyce
"History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."
The Mysterious Island
Author: Jules Verne
"It is a great misfortune to be alone, my friends; and it must be believed that solitude can quickly destroy reason."
Author: Martin Amis
"And meanwhile time goes about its immemorial work of making everyone look and feel like shit."
The Scarlet Letter
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne
“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”
The Picture Of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde
“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
The Children of Men
Author: P.D. James
“We can experience nothing but the present moment, live in no other second of time, and to understand this is as close as we can get to eternal life.”
Author: Richard Yates
"No one forgets the truth; they just get better at lying."
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Author: Zora Neale Hurston
"She had waited all her life for something, and it had killed her when it found her."
Author: Charles Dickens
“We need never be ashamed of our tears.”
Author: Mary Shelley
“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
Author: Philip K. Dick
"It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane."
Author: Roald Dahl
"It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you."
Author: Sebastian Faulks
"I know. I was there. I saw the great void in your soul, and you saw mine."
Author: Neil Gaiman
“She says nothing at all, but simply stares upward into the dark sky and watches, with sad eyes, the slow dance of the infinite stars.”
The Price of Salt
Author: Patricia Highsmith
“Perhaps it was freedom itself that choked her.”
The Good Soldier
Author: Ford Madox Ford
"Why can't people have what they want? The things were all there to content everybody; yet everybody has the wrong thing."
Author: George Eliot
“We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, “Oh, nothing!” Pride helps; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our hurts— not to hurt others.”
Author: Toni Morrison
“You are your best thing”
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Author: Truman Capote
“Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.”
The Sound and the Fury
Author: William Faulkner
“Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.”
Snow Falling on Cedars
Author: David Guterson
“None of those other things makes a difference. Love is the strongest thing in the world, you know. Nothing can touch it. Nothing comes close. If we love each other we’re safe from it all. Love is the biggest thing there is.”
In a Free State
Author: V.S. Naipaul
"The only lies for which we are truly punished are those we tell ourselves."
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Author: Mark Haddon
“Sometimes we get sad about things and we don’t like to tell other people that we are sad about them. We like to keep it a secret. Or sometimes, we are sad but we really don’t know why we are sad, so we say we aren’t sad but we really are.”
Author: Herman Melville
“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (Different Seasons)
Author: Stephen King
“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.”