Book Review : Ben Hur, A Tale Of The Christ - Lew Wallace 8*
Taking into account its language and Wallace's sometimes overly lengthy descriptions, Ben Hur is a good action action story as well as telling the life story of Jesus along the way.
I dare say that like myself, many readers approaching Ben Hur will have seen William Wyler's classic film of the novel and will have some trouble in getting Charlton Heston and Jack Hawkins out of their heads for the first few chapters.
Where Ben Hur hits the spot for me is a decent and gritty tale of hardship and then revenge, but where it fails are the odd plot devices (the disappearance and then re-appearance of the Egyptian Iras is rather odd) and some rather stilted dialogue in places. I also find it very disconcerting when an author suddenly begins to address the reader directly, I am not fond of that at all in novels.
It is said that Wallace was an atheist when he began researching for Ben Hur, and a believer when he completed the novel. The final chapters of the book are deeply affecting and do seem to draw on a powerful sense of personal belief as Jesus heals the lepers and then is betrayed and crucified. Ben Hur finds his true faith through the final actions and sufferings of Jesus, putting away his sword and becoming a man of peace, giving his wealth to the new church and assisting its followers.
Ben Hur was massively popular after its publication in 1880, and continued to outsell every book except the Bible for decades to come. It is a more exciting and action based novel than many of its contemporaries, and once past the scenery descriptions, Wallace can write a good action sequence, both the initial accident with the Procurator leading to the downfall of the Hur family, and then the famous chariot race sequence, are well told.
Overall a good read despite the sometimes awkward plot contrivances, and a very moving ending.
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