Monday, July 18, 2016

The World of Ben-Hur, by Mike Aquilina

Sophia Institute Press, ISBN 9781622823178, July 2016

Ben-Hur:A Tale of the Christ was a runaway bestselling novel in the late 19th century. It was a hit stage play, a hit movie of the silent era, and a hit Technicolor extravaganza of the 1950s.

But it all started with that novel by Lew Wallace, published in 1880. When he started writing, Wallace wasn't a Christian, but an unsatisfying conversation with a prominent atheist of the day left him curious. He decided he needed to do research, and that the right way to do that research was with the structure of using that research in a novel.

The basic story of Ben-Hur is this: Judah Ben-Hur is Jewish prince, a soldier, and friends with the Roman Messala. When Messala betrays him and he's sent into slavery, he digs in, regains his freedom, and seeks revenge. Along the way, he encounters Jesus Christ, with major implications for his life and his family's.

Wallace did meticulous research for his book--in the 1870s. Some things are wrong because we've learned more since. Nothing is wrong because Wallace was lazy or careless or changed things for "a better story."

The World of Ben-Hur is the story of Lew Wallace, the book he wrote, and the impact that story had in the popular culture. Mike Aquilina has done his own meticulous research. At every point where I thought, "wait, does he know..." it shortly became clear that he did, in fact, know. When I thought he was wrong, a little research of my own showed that no, Mr. Aquilina was right.

And his writing is clear, flowing, easy to read.

This is a book from an explicitly Christian perspective. That won't be a good fit for every reader. But Aquilina is not proselytizing; he's telling a story about a book, its adaptations on stage and screen, and its impact on popular culture. Well worth reading!

Recommended.

I received a copy of this book for proofreading purposes.