“The christening party took a turn when Albert Cousins arrived with gin.”

patchett-commonwealthI predict that this opening sentence of Ann Patchett’s new novel, Commonwealth, will become one of those classic opening sentences that creative writing instructors refer to when talking about creating tension right out of the gate.  Who is Albert Cousins?  Why did he bring gin to a christening party? How did the party “take a turn”? Did that “turn” have repercussions? In an interview, Patchett says that her intention was to signal the reader that after Bert’s arrival at the party, “nothing is going to be the same.”  These first twelve words show how masterful storytelling begins.

Ann Patchett, Commonwealth (New York: Harper, 2016), 1.

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