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The Book Browser

A Sampling of opening lines from books out this week

The Music Room
By Dennis McFarland
Houghton Miffin
Fiction

In the bicentennial year of our country's independence from Great Britain, a time when I imagined the American masses celebrative and awash with a sense of history and continuity, my wife of only four years decided it would be best for both of us if she moved in with her mother for a while — a trial separation, she said, though we both were so immediately relieved by the idea of parting, the real thing was bound to endure. In October of the previous year, she had suffered her second miscarriage — this one quite far along (almost six months); we'd begun to breathe easy, we'd begun decorating a nursery — and afterward, we succumbed to a stubborn disappointment that refused forgiveness, refused sexual and emotional healing. There had never been anything in our marriage quite as coherent as this two-headed tragedy. Madeline left for Santa Rosa in February, a rainy, blossoming-of-spring month in northern California.

The Tongues of Angels
By Reynolds Price
Atheneum
Fiction

I'm as peaceful a man as you're likely to meet in America now, but this is about a death I may have caused. Not slowly over time by abuse or meanness but on a certain day and by ignorance, by plain lack of notice. Though it happened thirty-four years ago, and though I can't say it's haunted my mind that many nights lately, I suspect I can draw it out for you now, clear as this noon. I may need to try.

A Moment's Liberty The Shorter Diary
By Virgina Woolf
Abridged and edited by Anne Olivier Bell
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Nonfiction

Friday 1 January (1915)
We were kept awake last night by New Year Bells. At first I thought they were ringing for a victory. Saturday 2 January
This is the kind of day which if it were possible to choose an altogether average sample of our life, I should select. We breakfast; I interview Mrs Le Grys. She complains of the huge Belgian appetites, & their preference for food fried in butter. If they eat thus in their exile, how must they eat at home, she wonders? After this, L. and I both settle down to our scribbling. We lunch; and read the papers; agree that there is no news. I read Guy Mannering upstairs for twenty minutes; and then we take Max for a walk. Halfway up to the Bridge, we found ourselves cut off by the river, which rose visibly, with a little ebb and flow, like the pulse of a heart. . . .And then I did my marketing. Saturday night is the great buying night; and some counters are besieged by three rows of women. I always choose the empty shops, where I suppose one pays a halfpenny a pound more. And then we had tea, and honey and cream; and now L. is typewriting his article; and we shall read all the evening and go to bed.

Vittoria
By Robert Merle
Harcourt Brace Jovanoich/ A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
Fiction

Five years ago — to be precise, on December 5, 1572, at seven in the morning — as I was going up the steps leading to the Vatican, I tripped and fell; my neck struck the edge of a step, the blow crushed my larynx, and I would have died there and then of asphyxiation if a barber-surgeon, who happened to be nearby, had not opened my throat with a small pair of scissors. The wound healed, but the accident left me dumb.

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