By Carol Wallace
Published by Tyndale
415 Pages

Back Cover: As one of the bestselling stories of all time, Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ has captivated and enthralled millions around the world―both in print and on the big screen. Now Lew’s great-great-granddaughter has taken the old-fashioned prose of this classic novel and breathed new life into it for today’s audience.

Coming to theaters in August 2016 as Ben-Hur, a major motion picture from MGM and Paramount studios, the story follows Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish nobleman whose childhood friend Messala betrays him. Accused of trying to murder the new Roman governor in Jerusalem, Judah is sentenced to the galley ships and vows to seek revenge against the Romans and Messala. But a chance encounter with a carpenter from Nazareth sets Judah on a different path.

Rediscover the intrigue, romance, and tragedy in this thrilling adventure.

Also included: the inspiring story-behind-the-story of Lew Wallace―Indiana lawyer, author, and Civil War general.

REVIEW: Author Carol Wallace has definitely “Breathed new life,” into her great-great grandfather’s masterpiece written in the 1800s. I felt the excitement seventeen year old Judah had when he ran around his house getting ready to meet his childhood friend, Messala, (son of a tax collector) who was returning home after five years in Rome. Juda was twelve and Messala was fourteen when they last saw each other. Messala finished his education and in the process became a Roman soldier. This man in front of Judah was a stranger, filled with beliefs they differed on. Messala says, “Jerusalem raised men to study, not to fight.” 

Judah thinks, “Was fighting always wrong?” This young man starts to think about his future. He tells his mother, “I want to know what I don’t know! ..I want to be surprised! The world is large and Jerusalem is small. But I’m not allowed to look any further.”

Ben-Hur and his family get a huge surprise alright when Messala betrays him in public as the new Roman Governor walks through town. Judah’s faith and endurance is tested. Their family is stripped of everything.,,”the swift, violent reaction to an accident tears apart Judah’s world, separates him from his family, and ultimately turns him into a slave. It’s his longing for reunion that powers the rest of the book – along with his yearning for vengeance.” the author says in her notes to readers.

This novel focuses on three men about the same age and from completely different walks of life. Readers see the three (Messala, Judah and Jesus) make choices that have them walking on the same roads for different reasons. Sometimes their paths intersect. At other times they clash. All of them have opinions about the purpose and meaning to their lives. Judah Ben-Hur is asked to help the Nazarene be the King of the Jews. He doesn’t know what that means but he’s on the lookout for Jesus; to learn more about him and hear what he has to say.

I liked how the author showed what some Jews believed the role Jesus would play in Jerusalem. They believed he was born to be king of the Jews and that he would need their help to be King and bring Rome to its knees. I liked how Judah, Ben-Hur watched Jesus from a distance. Then he heard his message. It started to affect his wounded heart. It made him want to get closer to Him and had the courage to walk into Jesus's presence. Readers see Judah start to realize that Jesus didn’t need the army he had been training; and maybe he didn’t need their help at all.

I found the “Afterward” section to the book fascinating. There are about 10 pages that give readers the rest of the story; Lew Wallace’s biography and how Ben-Hur came into being. Lew Wallace was a General who fought in the civil war, became a lawyer after the war ended and for fun wrote novels. It was a great escape for him and a way for him to go on adventures and never be far from home. I found it interesting to read about the obstacles Lew faced on the ways to publication. 

I was surprised to learn that one of the obstacles was the fact that Jesus Christ appeared as a character in a fiction novel. The author states,“No matter how reverent the portrayal, no matter that the author had only given Jesus dialogue that came direct from the gospels.” After the book was a success and they adapted it for stage one of the stipulations mandated by this author was that Jesus must never be played by a human. Instead, the Christ would be represented by a powerful beam of light.”

I purchased the original novel by Lew Wallace to read on my kindle. When I compared the two novels I saw what an amazing job Lew’s great, great granddaughter Carol Wallace has done in up-dating this novel to make it a more powerful, thought-provoking engaging read for today’s audience.

There is a new Ben-Hur film being released by MGM and Paramount studios August 2016. MGM studios originally made the full color epic film starring Charlton Heston in the 1950s. This would make a great book club field trip. Your group could discuss how the film is different and/or similar to the book. The author includes fifteen discussion questions to help create lively discussion for your meeting. I highly recommend this for your club and/or a great fall read!

ABOUT AUTHOR: Carol Wallace is the great-great-granddaughter of Lew Wallace, author of the novel Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, which was first published in 1880. Carol has written more than twenty books, including most recently a historical novel, Leaving Van Gogh. She is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller To Marry an English Lord, an inspiration for Downton Abbey. Carol holds degrees from Princeton University and Columbia University.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from The Book Club Network site and Tyndale Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog 
Book Fun Magazine 


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