Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Story of Biblical Proportions

I've just enjoyed an audio reading of Ben-Hur, it is an epic tale of betrayal and revenge set during the time of the Christ.  Judah Ben-Hur is a Jewish prince who is betrayed by his childhood Roman friend Messala, and sentenced to life as a galley slave - which wouldn't be long, as most galley slaves lived only a few years -  Ben-Hur's mother and sister disappear, and the family property is confiscated.  

Through a series of circumstances, Ben-Hur escapes from the ship he is sentenced to and is adopted by a Roman friend of his late father.  Life could be good, but Ben-Hur is tortured by the incident which changed his life and the cruel betrayal by his friend. Messala really is the pits, as a child he was taken into the family home, yet now he sets out to remove all trace of the Ben-Hur family.  Judah's mother and sister are entombed in a leprosy infected cell for eight years, and upon their release they are stoned and sent outside the town's gates. Their tale is so so sad.
Lew Wallace
Author of Ben-Hur
Ben-Hur is full of ideas of revenge, and the opportunity presents itself in the form of a chariot race.   Actually, I was rather disappointed with the race scene itself, especially after the long description of the stadium.  I think that I would like to see this scene re-written by Matt Reilly.  He could certainly inject some real excitement into it!

The novel itself is over descriptive, but when you consider when it was written, it was really important to set the scene and describe it as fully as possible as most people would not have travelled to, or even seen pictures of, exotic locations or animals.

Ben-Hur's story runs parallel with the rise of the Christ, and whilst this side of the story could have been tedious it wasn't.  I certainly found myself drawn into the buzzing excitement in their search for the Messiah. Some of these old classics can be tough (ie Melmoth The  Wanderer) but mostly they are great reads, and this is one of them. So, this was my read for this month's book club theme "The Book that inspired The Oscar Winning Movie".  I must have seen Ben-Hur years ago but barely remember it, just mainly the chariot race of course, so looking forward to finding three and half hours to sit down and watch it again when I get it out of the library :)

Next months read is a food based novel, so I've started The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola. The first thirty or so pages are a description of the delivery of food to the Halles Markets.  It's wonderfully written, and he layers the description of the food as a palette of oils slowly being applied to a canvas.  Fantastic.  I'm not sure what the actual story will be about but I do like the way he writes.  (I read Therese Racquin last year and thought it very good).  I've a few other novels lined up which I'm excited about, plus I need to do a Russian novel for November - probably a Dostoyevsky as I know him the best.

Happy reading all!


1 comment:

  1. Ben Hur and Belly Of Paris - really spreading out :) It's years since I read Ben Hur but I remember thinking how much the film dropped in my estimation after I read the book.