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How Far to Bethlehem?
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How Far to Bethlehem?

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  236 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Norah Lofts remarkable novel retells the story of the Nativity from the Annunciation to the Birth of Christ, and in it she has sought to reveal the motives and emotions of the characters as they converged on the humble stable in Bethlehem. With immense care and a superb sense of history she has re-created this most wonderful of tales with compassion, understanding, freshne ...more
Hardcover, 300 pages
Published September 1st 2007 by Buccaneer Books (first published 1964)
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Mar 11, 2010 Werner rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Historical fiction fans, and fans of fiction based on biblical history
Like many English people in her generation (she was born in 1904), the late British historical novelist Norah Lofts didn't wear her religious faith on her sleeve. In the works from her pen that I'd read earlier, the treatment of characters with strong religious beliefs is actually more often unfavorable than favorable, and there's no explicit literary evidence of a specifically Christian outlook; her usual style is simply to describe normal human life (warts and all) without much commentary. I h ...more
I have read lots of Norah Lofts books. I'm one of those people who 'find' an author and like to read all they have written and then get bummed out because there's no more to read. I read most of the Norah Lofts books that the local library has within the last 10 years. Except this one. It didn't interest me until this year.

It was written in 1965 and retells the story of the Nativity from many different points of view; Mary's, Joseph's, a shepherd's, an inn-keeper's, and each Wise Man. Although m
I enjoyed this fanciful tale of the Three Magi. Norah Lofts takes the traditional names and protrayals and embroiders a story that, while taking liberties with tradition, still manages to convey respect and faith. During the events of the story we meet many other characters that turn up in the Gospels, such as Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. We meet the one whom I strongly suspect is the Centurian at the Crucifixion. We also are given a back story for the innkeeper. Even with all the loveliness of th ...more
An entertaining blend of Biblical stories and much later folklore. The nitpicker in me has to point out that Jesus was probably not born on December 25, and certainly not during a snowstorm. Maybe it occasionally snows in Israel, but even in December, a heavy snowfall is unlikely. December 25 was the old date of Saturnalia and Solstice celebrations, which the Church adopted because the people of the empire hated to give up their beloved winter holidays. Furthermore, the Bible never names the wis ...more
This is a wonderful story of The Nativity. The author takes the story of the Nativity from the Bible, and fills out each of the well-known characters, with grace and beauty. She brings Mary, Joseph, the 3 wise men, the innkeeper, and others all to life in the most amazing way. I can't believe this book is out of print! But it can still be found in libraries.
Beth Arocha

I read this book every Christmas. It is a moving story of the Three Wisemen and their search for Jesus.
Catherine Douglas

This story brought me joy and insight. Norah Lofts was gifted with a rare talent and she used it miraculously, making the story of Jesus's birth come to life. I love her books, but this is one of her best.
Laurie D'ghent
A wonderful book that was a fun read. However, it lost a star because there was so much talk about sex in it--not necessarily inappropriate, more explaining what the times were like, but still not what I'm looking for in a book about the Savior.
This is such an amazing book. Everyone in my bookclub loved it. It is the story of the birth of Christ told through all the different perspectives of those involved. Mary, Joseph, the 3 wise men, and the shephards. The author did a great job of making those people real and truly expressing the greatness of Christ mission on the earth. You can only get this book used but well worth having.
I have generally really enjoyed Norah Lofts' novels, and this one started out beautifully, but I couldn't stay with it after I was 75% through. Not sure what happened, it just went flat. And, this is a great, great story -- a tale of the wise men coming from afar to visit the newborn Savior. I regret not finishing this, and perhaps will some other time, but it just lost me.
I read this novel of the Christmas story almost every year at this time, and it never gets old. Moving and perceptive, a tale of history, faith, human nature, and the search for meaning in a cynical and embittered world. Beautifully written...the minor characters are just as remarkable as the major ones. A novel, yes, but it makes me think "this is how it happened."
Sherry Kent

Really enjoyed this fictional tale that tries to explain the connection amongst the principals involved on the night Christ was born. I will say that it is a bit wordy and chapter 13 could have been eliminated altogether! You get so caught up in the characters that you start believing that it really all happened just this way!
At first I wasn't going to read this, because generally I won't read anything about scriptural characters, preferring my own vision of them, but it was the only Norah Lofts book in my mom's library, so I ended up reading it and it wasn't bad. It was interesting to hear the background stories of the wisemen, innkeeper, etc.
Not great, but decent.
This book is of course another telling of the birth of Christ. I loved it because the author retells the story by showing how greatly affected and changed the other characters of the story were...(i.e. the innkeeper, the shepherds, and especially the wise men who travel to see the newborn king). Really an uplifting, inspiring book.
Dec 23, 2013 Sally rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sally by: December 2013 Book Club selection
I really enjoyed this fictionalized account of the the first Christmas. It seemed well-researched and I enjoyed the subtle foreshadowing of character interactions (Barabas, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, etc.). At times I did get bogged down with details which seemed to slow the story for me, hence the 4-star rating.
My father-in-law lent me this book in a Reader’s Digest Condensed Book format. It was an excellent account of how the wise men found the Christ child. I loved how Lofts made them come to life and I think I’d like to read the full version of her book next year.
Molly Panzer
Super good and tied all the pieces of the Nativity Story together and really gave you something to think about. Perfect time of year to read it. Someone told me it's a classic and clearly one I missed.
Charming story of the three Wise Men; Melchior an old Chinese astronomer, Gaspar a Mongol nomad stuck in a conquered country and Balthazar a Nubian enslaved in childhood.
One of my favorite books. A beautifully told story of the nativity, from the points of view of several participants. I've read it many times!
Bonnie Kerr
I thought it was quite slow in some parts and it took me longer than usual to finish it. But over all I thought it was a good story.
This is my favorite Christmas Story. I read this almost every year to get me in the right spirit for Christmas.

Magical. Perfect gift for Christmas. Insightful. Just want to read it again and again.
This will always be one of my all-time favorite Advent reads.
Mar 06, 2014 ☯Bettie☯ rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Lady Alice
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Excellent book---great read at Christmas time--really opens your imagination to what went on that Bethlehem night & how all the characters arrived on the scene at precisely the right time!
Linda marked it as to-read
Jan 23, 2015
Zoe marked it as to-read
Jan 15, 2015
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Fans of Norah Lofts: This topic has been closed to new comments. How Far to Bethlehem - common read Dec 2012 64 21 Dec 29, 2012 05:31PM  
How Far to Bethlehem review 1 10 Nov 11, 2009 09:56PM  
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Also published using the pseudonyms Juliet Astley and Peter Curtis

Norah Lofts, née Norah Robinson, (27 August 1904–10 September 1983) was a 20th century best-selling British author. She wrote over fifty books specialising in historical fiction, but she also wrote non-fiction and short stories. Many of her novels, including her Suffolk Trilogy, follow the history of a specific house and the residen
More about Norah Lofts...
The Concubine Anne Boleyn The King's Pleasure Eleanor the Queen The Town House (House, #1)

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