Norah Lofts

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Norah Lofts Norah Lofts.jpg
Norah Lofts

Norah Lofts, néeNorah Ethel Robinson, (27 August 1904 10 September 1983) was a 20th-century best-selling British author. She wrote more than 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 specific houses and their residents over several generations.


Personal life

Northgate House, Bury St Edmunds, home to Lofts from 1955 until her death in 1983 Bury St Edmunds - Northgate House.jpg
Northgate House, Bury St Edmunds, home to Lofts from 1955 until her death in 1983

Lofts was born in Shipdham, Norfolk to Isaac Robinson and Ethel Garner, and grew up in Bury St Edmunds where was educated at Guildhall Feoffment Girls School and the County Grammar School for Girls in the town. In 1925 she attained a teaching diploma from Norwich Training College. [1]

She married Geoffrey Lofts in 1931 [2] with whom she had one son, Clive. Geoffrey died in 1948. [3] Lofts wed her second husband, a technical consultant to the British Sugar Corporation at the town's sugar beet factory, Robert Jorisch in 1949. [4] [5] She stood as a Town Councillor for Bury St Edmunds from 1957 to 1962, [6] where she died in 1983.


She also wrote under the pen names Peter Curtis and Juliet Astley. Lofts chose to release her murder-mystery novels under the pen name Peter Curtis because she did not want the readers of her historic fiction to pick up a murder-mystery novel and expect classic Lofts historical fiction. However, the murders still show characteristic Lofts elements. Most of her historical novels fall into two general categories: biographical novels about queens, among them Anne Boleyn, Isabella I of Castile, and Catherine of Aragon; and novels set in East Anglia centered around the fictitious town of Baildon (patterned largely on Bury St. Edmunds). Her creation of this fictitious area of England is reminiscent of Thomas Hardy's creation of "Wessex"; and her use of recurring characters such that the protagonist of one novel appears as a secondary character in others is even more reminiscent of William Faulkner's work set in "Yoknapatawpha County," Mississippi. Lofts' work set in East Anglia in the 1930s and 1940s shows great concern with the very poor in society and their inability to change their conditions. Her approach suggests an interest in the social reformism that became a feature of British post-war society.

She was not afraid to tackle potentially sensitive subjects; her version of the Nativity, with backstories of Mary, Joseph, the Magi, the shepherds - even the innkeeper - is rendered in How Far To Bethlehem? as is the ill-fated Donner Party expedition in Road to Revelation (aka Winter Harvest).

Several of her novels were turned into films. Jassy was filmed as Jassy (1947) starring Margaret Lockwood and Dennis Price. You're Best Alone was filmed as Guilt Is My Shadow (1950). The Devil's Own (also known as The Little Wax Doll and Catch As Catch Can) was filmed as The Witches (1966). The film 7 Women (1966) was directed by John Ford and very loosely based on the story "Chinese Finale" by Norah Lofts. Her books still have a devoted international readership, notably on the Goodreads website. [7]


In the United States, she won a National Book Award for I Met a Gypsy, voted by members of the American Booksellers Association. Specifically, her collection was "the 'forgotten book' of the year [1936] that least deserved to be forgotten" (subsequently termed the Bookseller Discovery). Alfred Knopf represented her at the ceremony. [8]



Short story collections

Other publications

Novels published under the pseudonym Juliet Astley

Novels published under the pseudonym Peter Curtis

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  1. Reilley, John (2015-12-25). Twentieth Century Crime & Mystery Writers. Springer. ISBN   978-1-349-81366-7.
  2. "Geoffrey Lofts, England and Wales Marriage Registration Index 1933". Family Search.
  3. Saltmarsh, Abigail (2016-12-23). "A House That Inspired a British Novelist". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  4. "Robert Jorisch, England and Wales Marriage Registration Index 1949". Family Search.
  5. "Friday 19 February 1954". Bury Free Press. p. 1.
  6. "Norah Lofts". Suffolk Archives. Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  7. "Norah Lofts". Goodreads. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  8. "5 Honors Awarded on the Year's Books: Authors of Preferred Volumes Hailed at Luncheon of Booksellers Group", The New York Times, 26 February 1937, page 23. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2007).