How Far Is It to Bethlehem (Review & Recommendation)

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a year late with my review of this book. Do NOT read that as any sort of dis on this book, because it is wonderfully done and a worthwhile addition to your family library.

Nancy Brown has a passion for all things Chesterton, and she has inspired the same in me as I listen to her on the Uncommon Sense podcast. Nancy has a special love for Frances Chesterton, G.K.’s wife. This book, How Far Is It to Bethlehem: The Plays and Poetry of Frances Chesterton, was an inspired effort.

As Nancy tells it, she spent forever-and-a-half checking out and digging through old papers and books to pull out Frances’s plays and poetry.

I think, after reading this compilation, that Frances was truly amazing. G.K.’s secret to success? Well, she didn’t hurt anything, I think.

Bethlehem includes six original plays that Frances had written over the years for the kids who came to the Chesterton house for their annual Christmas party celebration. Real kids actually used these plays, and I can see why. My eight-year-old doesn’t know about this book yet, but when she does, I’m pretty sure the dramatic flair in my house is going to hit the stage!

Though they were written just under 100 years ago, they have a classic feel to them: they make sense to the modern mind and open the door to contemplation on just what we’re doing when we celebrate Christmas. (Hint: the gifts aren’t all about new toys.)

But they’re not preachy. They’re not stuffy. They’re actually full of humor and beauty.

And then there’s the Christmas card poetry. Now, I’m not much of a poetry reader. I like the idea of liking poetry, but the truth is that it’s work, which takes time I don’t usually spend.

Frances Chesterton’s Christmas poetry, though, is not work. Oh, it can be. But it’s almost conversational, and the images it evokes are so tangible that you find yourself shivering and giggling and thinking about it hours later.

This book is a gem, and one I can’t recommend enough.

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