Opening Lines: Girl at War by Sara Nović

This is the blog where we dissect the opening sentences of popular works of fiction. Few people outside of the writing community know how much blood, sweat, and tears go into crafting the perfect Opening Line; and for that reason, I want to bring attention to the incredible work that a writer puts into these first few words. Today we will examine Sara Novic’s Girl at War.


First, let’s look at the blurb:

Zagreb, 1991. Ana Jurić is a carefree ten-year-old, living with her family in a small apartment in Croatia’s capital. But that year, civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, splintering Ana’s idyllic childhood. Daily life is altered by food rations and air raid drills, and soccer matches are replaced by sniper fire. Neighbors grow suspicious of one another, and Ana’s sense of safety starts to fray. When the war arrives at her doorstep, Ana must find her way in a dangerous world.
New York, 2001. Ana is now a college student in Manhattan. Though she’s tried to move on from her past, she can’t escape her memories of war—secrets she keeps even from those closest to her. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, Ana returns to Croatia after a decade away, hoping to make peace with the place she once called home. As she faces her ghosts, she must come to terms with her country’s difficult history and the events that interrupted her childhood years before.

Now, let’s examine her Opening Line:

“The war in Zagreb began over a pack of cigarettes.”

Yet another hilarious opening line that uses irony to grab the reader’s attention.

It’s a short line, but there are a few things here that make it a great opener.

First, we have the Narrator’s voice. It’s just a funny line.

Then, we have the line itself. A war in Zagreb was started over a pack of cigarettes.

What kind of war was it? There’s a movie called War of the Roses which describes the war/battle between a couple going through a bitter divorce trying to get their spouse to leave their shared home.

Sure, we know the blurb talks about a civil war in Yugoslavia, but is this the same war that started over a pack of cigarettes, or is there a war within the war?

You can’t read that line and not want to find out how a war started over something as stupid as a pack of cigarettes.

If you want to find out exactly what happened during the war, click the Barnes & Noble link.

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