Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.
—Ruth Rendell, from A Judgement in Stone
Poets think in lines, prose writers in sentences; the best of both work from sound to sense, with an ear for the music in their compositions. S for Sentence celebrates lyricism in prose, the play and craft at work in the artful sentence. We post a sentence a month along with comments by a guest writer on the craft that shapes it, on what makes it great. In one or two sentences.
—Pearl Abraham, Editor
When I hear this first line in my mind, it's assuring, my needle to north. The language is startlingly plain and active: not "murdered" but "killed," not "was illiterate" but "could not read or write." There is not an ounce of fat or ornament. Every word is crucial. And with this short sentence, she tells what will happen, who will do it, and why. Years later, a brilliant teacher told me that "suspense comes from what you do know," and I remembered this novel and read it again. Yes, I thought, I've learned that lesson before. I still find Rendell's confidence shocking: what is she doing, giving away everything in the first sentence? Showing us how little we know, despite having all the facts.
—Rebecca Scherm's first novel, Unbecoming, will be published by Viking in January 2015.