There are the classics:
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
George Orwell, 1984
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity...
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Midway in our life's journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.
Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy - Inferno
There are the ones that slam you into the setting:
The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had ended.
Arthur C Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey
The well-written mood setter:
The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.
William Gibson, Neuromancer
We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall.
Louise Erdrich, Tracks
And the just plain clever:
It was the day my grandmother exploded.
Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road
Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shunyu.
Ha Jin, Waiting
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Stubb, and he almost deserved it.
C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Zach Freeman woke out of a deep sleep to see his bum perched on the ledge of his bedroom window.
Andy Griffiths, The Day My Bum Went Psycho
And my personal favourite:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
So, what makes it memorable? In my opinion, for a first line to be memorable it needs to throw the reader into the setting, tell them something in a way they've never read before, or make them laugh.
The first line is a promise that you're going to take the reader places they've never been before.
How about you? What's your favourite first line of a novel? What do you think it takes to make a great first line?
Thanks for reading.