Review: The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

“They were going to Bethlehem, to Bethlehem- because that’s where the Christ-child was born.”

The Christmas Mystery begins in Norway on 30th November when a boy named Joachim discovers a hand-made Advent calendar in a book shop. The next day, when Joachim opens the first door, he finds a tiny piece of paper telling the story of a little girl called Elisabet who spots a lamb in a department store. The lamb begins to run away, but Elisabet is determined to stroke it and chases after it. The lamb leads her outside and into the woods where she meets the angel Ephiriel, who explains to her that she is now part of a very special pilgrimage to Bethlehem – not only will they be travelling across land, they will also be travelling back through time to the day when Jesus was born.

As Elisabet, Ephiriel and the lamb move closer to Bethlehem and further back in time, they are joined by an assortment of other Biblical characters including shepherds and Wise Men. A little more of their story is revealed every day through the pieces of paper hidden in Joachim’s advent calendar, but as the tale of Elisabet’s journey unfolds, Joachim and his parents become involved in another mystery: the mystery of John, the mysterious flower-seller who made the magic Advent calendar and the real-life Elisabet who disappeared on Christmas Eve in 1948.

The book is divided into 24 chapters, with each chapter representing one door on the Advent calendar. If you have children, the structure of the book would make it perfect for reading aloud, one chapter per day in the weeks leading up to Christmas. This is not really a ‘children’s book’ though – it’s one of those books that can be enjoyed on different levels by people of all ages. As with all of Jostein Gaarder’s books the story introduces us to a large number of philosophical ideas. We also learn some interesting historical and geographical facts about the countries Elisabet passes through on her way to Bethlehem.
Although this is not as good as some of Gaarder’s other books such as Sophie’s World or The Solitaire Mystery, it has to be one of the most unusual and imaginative Christmas stories I’ve ever read.

Genre: General Fiction/Pages: 247/Publisher: Phoenix – Translated by Elizabeth Rokkan & Illustrated by Rosemary Wells/Year: 1996/Source: Bought new

6 thoughts on “Review: The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

  1. Helen says:

    Thanks Michelle – I enjoyed the challenge. I’m looking forward to signing up again next time. πŸ™‚

    Happy New Year to you too!

  2. Michelle @ The True Book Addict says:

    Great review! Thanks for joining my challenge. I hope you enjoyed yourself! I will be hosting again next year and I hope you will sign up again.

    Happy New Year!


  3. aine says:

    I read this as a child and only remembered parts of the story – I have been trying to find it again for years! Thank you πŸ™‚

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