Thursday, October 27, 2016

Carol Wallace's Ben Hur - Book Review

I recently joined Audible and the first fiction book I purchased was Carol Wallace's "Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ". Mrs. Wallace is related to the original author of "Ben Hur", Lew Wallace and being an author herself, modernized the book written by her great-great grandfather. I do not think Mrs. Wallace's intentions were to change the story, but to simply make it less burdensome to read for this generation. I cannot completely compare between the two books because I didn't finish the original written by Lew Wallace. His form of writing was meticulously descriptive of the Middle East and I found myself reading pages and pages of him trying to give the mind an idea of what this part of the world looked like. I understand why since he wrote this book during the time of the American Civil War and most of his audience could never imagine the panorama or culture Jesus lived in. But for me, it was a bit exhausting, so I found myself skimming a lot of the book since I know what a camel looks like, or I know what Arab nomads in the 1st century wore. Needless to say, I didn't get far in the book, but learned of the "new" book by Mrs. Wallace and decided to listen to it on my walks.

To make things clear, I absolutely love the "Ben Hur" starring Charlton Heston. The chariot scene in this movie will forever be a part of American movie culture. Saying this, I did go into Mrs.Wallace's book with my biases, but I can safely say that both movie (1959 version) and book are good. The movie is a classic but does exalt Judah Ben Hur in a way the book doesn't. In the book Judah's thirst for vengeance and war is insatiable. Messala is a scoundrel. The horrors of Rome and the pain suffered by Tirzah and her mother made me silently weep for them. What abhorrence! And then comes the contrast. Jesus. Judah expecting a Messiah to come and save his people from Rome doesn't realize that He has come to save them from something more. He has come to not just save them from death, but to also give them eternal life. What a beautiful story!

Mrs. Wallace is a wonderful author! Her word usage is superb and throughout the book there are appropriate times of lightheartedness that made me laugh out loud. The characters in her book are well developed and even if you've seen the movie (again I'm talking about the 1959 movie), she has added a climax I didn't expect. I actually gasped!

About the new movie that came out starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Huston, I really don't plan on seeing it. Frankly, after watching several trailers, I really don't think their acting is the greatest. And by "their" I mean the dialogues that happen between Judah and Messala throughout the trailer. Even Morgan Freeman seems a bit dampen. Also, the scene on the boat makes it appear that Judah was still chained to the boat, an imperative difference in both the book and the 1959 movie. I may be wrong regarding that part though. In other words, I just don't think I will be able to handle the poor acting and the director's artistic freedoms with this story.

I personally have heard mixed reviews on the movie though.

About Carol Wallace's book though, read it! There is fighting, violence and death. There are insinuations of sex and debauchery, but Mrs. Wallace leaves most to the imagination and isn't descriptive at all in these scenes. The scenes involving the lepers are fairly graphic, but necessary.

Recommendations: I believe older teenage boys would really enjoy this book as would any historical fiction lover. I bought this audio book for my father and he absolutely loved it!

To the Christian: The redemptive climax of the book is elating! Although, there are small glimpses of Jesus throughout the book, and the book focuses a lot more on Judah and those around him, Jesus is the hero in this book. He is the true champion that saves at the end of the day. I truly recommend it.

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