Wednesday, December 28, 2016

166. Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ

Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ
Lew Wallace
1880
Around 550 pages









Once again, I apologize for the delay in posting.  However, can anyone really blame me for putting off Ben-Hur?  It actually worked out okay, because I got to be reading this on Christmas.  As readers of my movie blog might know, I love taking credit for coincidental themes.

Judah Ben-Hur is a Jewish prince who wants to be a Roman soldier.  He hopes that the Romans will train him so that one day he can fight against them.  During a Roman military parade, Judah rushes to the roof of his house to watch, only to accidentally dislodge a roof tile.  The roof tile falls on the head of the Roman governor.  Although the governor wasn't killed, Judah is accused of being an assassin.  Nice going, dingus.  Judah pleads to Messala, an old childhood friend who is now a Roman officer, to help his family, but Messala merely laughs.  Judah is forced to become a galley slave and his mother and sister are imprisoned.  For the rest of the novel, Judah's only has two goals: avenge his family and find out what happened to his mother and sister.  Oh yeah, and Jesus' narrative runs parallel to Judah's.

I should probably mention right off the bat that I am not Christian.  I am familiar enough with the stories, though, that I found the passages about Jesus to be quite dull.  Wallace didn't really do anything new with the texts (as far as I know) so I felt like I was stuck in a bible studies class.  I did enjoy Judah's story, which unfortunately does not begin until about page 80.

As far as Wallace's writing style goes, I was not overly impressed.  He was his own worst enemy throughout the novel; it was almost as though he wanted it to be dull.  For example, one of the chapters ended with Judah about to embark on a journey that might tell him where his mother and sister are.  The next chapter was then titled "Disappointed."  Obviously much of what happens in this book is already known to the audience; do you really have to destroy the few chances you have at dramatic tension?

Despite all of this, there are still parts of the story that I really enjoyed.  I loved hearing Iras' stories and the chariot scene was truly exciting.  Still, it goes without saying that this is an extremely preachy novel that I was eager to finish quickly.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Fans of the book include Ulysses Grant, Jefferson Davis, and James Garfield

Blessed by Pope Leo XIII.

UP NEXT: Nana by Emile Zola.  I have already read this one so expect another post shortly!

I watched the 1956 version for my movie list and thought it was incredibly dull.  Here's a trailer from YouTube of the 2016 version, which I guess totally bombed.  CGI=good movie, right?: