How does the first line of a novel draw us into the story? And how does the start shape our reading of what follows? The Sense of a Beginning is the first comprehensive exploration of the literary opening. It looks at how opening lines work from both a formal and narrative point of view, how they change across different historical periods, and how beginnings in fiction relate to beginnings in nature. With a title that deliberately echoes Frank Kermode’s seminal book on endings, Niels Buch Leander’s wide-ranging study addresses the formal challenge of openings, especially in modernism, and illustrates their significance for both literary creation and literary criticism. Drawing on examples from Charles Dickens, D. H. Lawrence, Le Clézio, Thomas Mann, Paul Valéry, and many more, Leander fills a truly surprising gap in literary scholarship.