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How Far to Bethlehem?
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How Far to Bethlehem?

4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  294 Ratings  ·  34 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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The Town House by Norah LoftsHow Far to Bethlehem? by Norah LoftsThe House at Old Vine by Norah LoftsThe House at Sunset by Norah LoftsThe Concubine by Norah Lofts
Best Norah Lofts books
2nd out of 44 books — 36 voters
Redeeming Love by Francine RiversMark of the Lion Trilogy by Francine RiversGarden of Madness by Tracy L. HigleyThe Red Tent by Anita DiamantSo Shines the Night by Tracy L. Higley
Best Biblical Fiction
50th out of 231 books — 341 voters

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Community Reviews

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Mar 11, 2010 Werner rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 25, 2014 Susan rated it liked it
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
May 06, 2008 Kassie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 15, 2009 Melea rated it really liked it
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
Dec 21, 2012 Margaret rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Dec 27, 2013 Beth Arocha rated it it was amazing

I read this book every Christmas. It is a moving story of the Three Wisemen and their search for Jesus.
Tina Weaver
Feb 23, 2015 Tina Weaver rated it really liked it
It was a good plot that pulls the reader alone the journey. I found it historically interesting. I don't believe she kept to the Biblical truth but made the story appear to be accurate so one reading wouldn't question, because the plot carried one through to the end.
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.
Rose Anderson
Jan 20, 2016 Rose Anderson rated it it was amazing
Reading this book is one of my Christmas traditions. I try to read it every December but save part of it so that it lasts to the coming of the Wise Men on January 6th. It helps me remember what the season is really all about.
Dec 20, 2015 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I appreciate Lofts' concept of telling the story through various people and getting a glimpse of how life back then might have been, but sometimes I found these stories and the characters' backstories a bit tedious. And Melchior coming from Pyongyang, now in North Korea was a bit far-fetched for me.
jean murray
Mar 23, 2016 jean murray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

A very enjoyable read, an old story made believable. Each character came to life . once again Nora Lofts proved her gift.
Laurie D'ghent
Mar 09, 2014 Laurie D'ghent rated it really liked it
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.
Becky Richards
Jun 28, 2015 Becky Richards rated it liked it
a childhood fav
Parvathi Preethan
Jul 14, 2015 Parvathi Preethan rated it it was amazing
Tender and beautiful.
Laura Fultz
Dec 21, 2015 Laura Fultz rated it it was ok
Recommended Read by Julie: very well written, but I had a hard time getting into it.

Recommend For: Adult Read/Biblical Interests/Nativity
May 18, 2015 Judith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely book about what might be the tales behind those who come to visit Christ the evening he's born.
Jan 02, 2009 Stacey rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 11, 2011 Julianne rated it liked it
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.
Dec 24, 2013 Patricia rated it it was amazing
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!
Oct 21, 2009 Kayli rated it it was ok
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.
Feb 14, 2008 Jenny rated it really liked it
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 really liked it  ·  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.
Dec 01, 2010 Rachelle rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 03, 2014 Molly Panzer rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 22, 2010 Mathilde rated it really liked it
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
Mar 31, 2013 Bonnie Kerr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 30, 2008 J rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite Christmas Story. I read this almost every year to get me in the right spirit for Christmas.

Dec 08, 2010 Maggy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magical. Perfect gift for Christmas. Insightful. Just want to read it again and again.
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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
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