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2015 fiction quiz: Can you recognize these opening lines?

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(Read caption) 'A God of Ruins' appears on the 'best of 2015' lists of Time, NPR, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and The Christian Science Monitor.

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The 10 best fiction books of 2015 – as judged by the book critics of The Christian Science Monitor – transport readers across time and space. Thanks to the talents of authors both well known (Kate Atkinson) and brand new (Angela Flournoy), readers will thrill to scenes from 11th-century England and the Cold War-era Soviet Union to modern Detroit and Afghanistan. India, Egypt, and China make appearances too, as does Virginia Woolf.

Even if you haven't read the books themselves, you may be familiar with the styles of many of the authors. Test yourself by seeing if you can match first lines to the titles of the Monitor's favorite novels (and one collection of short stories) from 2015. (Answers are below.)

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1. "He walked as far as the hedge that signalled the end of the airfield. The beating of the bounds. The men referred to it as his 'daily constitutional' and fretted when he didn’t take it. They were superstitious. Everyone was superstitious. Beyond the hedge there were bare fields, ploughed over last autumn. He didn’t expect to see the alchemy of spring, to see the dull brown earth change to bright green and then pale gold. A man could count his life in harvests reaped. He had seen enough."

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(a) “The Turner House," by Angela Flournoy

(b) "A God In Ruins" by Kate Atkinson

(c) "Flood of Fire," by Amitav Ghosh

(d) “The Story of the Lost Child,” by Elena Ferrante

2. "From October 1976 until 1979, when I returned to Naples to live, I avoided resuming a steady relationship with Lila. But it wasn’t easy. She almost immediately tried to reenter my life by force, and I ignored her, tolerated her, endured her. Even if she acted as if there were nothing she wanted more than to be close to me at a difficult moment, I couldn’t forget the contempt with which she had treated me."

(a) “The Story of the Lost Child,” by Elena Ferrante

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(b) “The Big Green Tent," by Ludmila Ulitskaya

(c) “Vanessa and Her Sister,” by Priya Parmar

(d) “Honeydew," by Edith Pearlman

3. "My wife finally understood that I needed some time on my own…. I left her the big car and the driver so that she would be able to get around with the kids. I drove the smaller car to our chalet on the north coast, a three-hour drive alone with my thoughts and the voice of Umm Kulthum streaming from the cassette deck. At the gate, the security man checked my papers. In winter the resort management stepped up their security to prevent burglaries. A cool, refreshing breeze blew in from the sea. The place was completely empty and had the air of a fairy-tale town whose inhabitants had fled. All the chalets were locked and the streets deserted except for the lampposts. I drove past the main square and then turned up the street leading to our chalet. A new Japanese car suddenly appeared, driven by a man in his fifties and with a beautiful woman somewhat younger in the passenger seat. As they overtook me, I looked over at them… they must be lovers, come to the resort to get away from prying eyes. That had to be it. For such blushing languor and loving serenity are not typical of married life.

 (a) "The Turner House," by Angela Flournoy

(b) “The Big Green Tent," by Ludmila Ulitskaya

(c) "Green on Blue," by Elliot Ackerman

(d) “The Automobile Club of Egypt," by Alaa Al Aswany

4. "The eldest six of Francis and Viola Turner’s thirteen children claimed that the big room of the house on Yarrow Street was haunted for at least one night. A ghost – a haint, if you will – tried to pull Cha-Cha out of the big room’s second-story window."

 (a) “Honeydew," by Edith Pearlman

(b) "Vanessa and Her Sister," by Priya Parmar

(c) "The Turner House," by Angela Flournoy

(d) “The Story of the Lost Child,” by Elena Ferrante

5. "Tamara sat before a runny omelet on a plate, the vestiges of sleep still clinging to her. Trying not to yank at the living pelt, Raisa Ilinichna, her mother, nudged a wide-tooth comb through Tamara’s hair as gently as she could. The radio disgorged strains of triumphal music, but it wasn’t terribly loud: Grandmother was asleep behind the partition wall. Then the music died out. The pause that followed was too long, and seemed to portend something. The familiar, solemn radio voice resounded: “Attention! This is Moscow speaking. Transmitting an official announcement to all radio stations of the Soviet Union.” The comb froze in Tamara’s hair.

(a) "Vanessa and Her Sister," by Priya Parmar

(b) “The Big Green Tent," by Ludmila Ulitskaya

(c) "Green on Blue," by Elliot Ackerman

(d) "Flood of Fire," by Amitav Ghosh

6. "Tenderfoot was a pedicure parlor on Main Street near Channing. Two reclining chairs – usually only one was in use – faced the street through a large plate-glass window. And so customers, alone with Paige, got a kind of public privacy – anybody could see them, no one but Paige could hear them. Paige was an expert listener – rarely commenting on what she heard, never repeating it."

(a) “The Big Green Tent," by Ludmila Ulitskaya

(b) "Green on Blue," by Elliot Ackerman

(c) “Honeydew," by Edith Pearlman

(d) "The Turner House," by Angela Flournoy

7. "Many would call me a dishonest man, but I’ve always kept faith with myself. There is an honesty in that, I think."

(a) "Green on Blue," by Elliot Ackerman

(b) “The Automobile Club of Egypt," by Alaa Al Aswany

(c) "A God in Ruins," by Kate Atkinson

(d) “The Buried Giant," by Kazuo Ishiguro

8. "I opened the great sash window onto the morning pink of the square and made a decision. Yes. Today. Last Thursday evening, I sat in the corner like a sprouted potato, but this Thursday, I will speak up. I will speak out. Long ago Virginia decreed, in the way that Virginia decrees, that I was the painter and she the writer. 'You do not like words, Nessa,' she said. 'They are not your creative nest.' Or maybe it was orb? Or oeuf? My sister always describes me in rounded domestic hatching words. And invariably, I believe her. So, not a writer, I have run away from words like a child escaping a darkening wood, leaving my sharp burning sister in sole possession of the enchanted forest. But Virginia should not always be listened to."

(a) "The Turner House," by Angela Flournoy

(b) “The Story of the Lost Child,” by Elena Ferrante

(c) “The Big Green Tent," by Ludmila Ulitskaya

(d) "Vanessa and Her Sister," by Priya Parmar

9. "You would have searched a long time for the sort of winding lane or tranquil meadow for which England later became celebrated. There were instead miles of desolate, uncultivated land; here and there rough-hewn paths over craggy hills or bleak moorland. Most of the roads left by the Romans would by then have become broken or overgrown, often fading into wilderness. Icy fogs hung over rivers and marshes, serving all too well the ogres that were then still native to this land. The people who lived nearby – one wonders what desperation led them to settle in such gloomy spots – might well have feared these creatures, whose panting breaths could be heard long before their deformed figures emerged from the mist. But such monsters were not cause for astonishment. People then would have regarded them as everyday hazards, and in those days there was so much else to worry about."

(a) “The Buried Giant," by Kazuo Ishiguro

(b) “Honeydew," by Edith Pearlman

(c) "A God in Ruins," by Kate Atkinson

(d) "Flood of Fire," by Amitav Ghosh

10. "Havildar Kesri Singh was the kind of soldier who liked to take the lead, particularly on days like this one, when his battalion was marching through a territory that had already been subdued and the advance-guard’s job was only to fly the paltan’s colours and put on their best parade-faces for the benefit of the crowds that had gathered by the roadside. The villagers who lined the way were simple people and Kesri didn’t need to look into their eyes to know that they were staring at him in wide-eyed wonder. East India Company sepoys were an unusual sight in this remote part of Assam: to have a full paltan of the Bengal Native Infantry’s 25th Regiment – the famous ‘Pacheesi’ – marching through the rice-fields was probably as great a tamasha as most of them would witness in a year, or even a decade.

(a) "A God in Ruins," by Kate Atkinson

(b) "Flood of Fire," by Amitav Ghosh

(c) "Vanessa and Her Sister," by Priya Parmar

(d) “The Automobile Club of Egypt," by Alaa Al Aswany


1. (b) "A God in Ruins"

2. (a) “The Story of the Lost Child”

3. (d) “The Automobile Club of Egypt" by Alaa Al Aswany

4. (c) "The Turner House"

5. (b) “The Big Green Tent"

6. (c) “Honeydew"

7. (a) "Green on Blue"

8. (d) "Vanessa and Her Sister"

9. (a) “The Buried Giant"

10. (b) "Flood of Fire"