The only thing I knew about Ben Hur before reading the novel was that Chalreton Heston starred in the movie and there was a chariot race. I thought the race was the climax of the story…hardly! I have never seen the movie, so I was interested in reading the book.
Ben-Hur was originally published in 1880, so it has an older style of writing, not as loquacious as Charles Dickens, but the descriptions are definitely detailed, very pre-tv!
Les Wallace was a major-general during the Civil War, and actually wrote 70 different books, with Ben-Hur being the most famous. It was a very unusual way to tell the story of Jesus, and Wallace took up the challenge even though he was somewhat apathetic about religion in general. Through his research for the book, he made his own decision about faith. Ben-Hur was originally adapted for the stage in 1889….consider that undertaking as you read this novel!
The story is divided into eight sections, called books, allowing for years to pass between the them. The characters’ lives crisis cross each other throughout, and the drama is quite compelling. I found myself turning pages and reading very fast in some places, to find out what happened before I had to do another round of canning, not content to let the story go while I dealt with vegetables that wouldn’t wait. At the same time, I would not call this a fast read. As is typical of this era, there is much on a page to digest, and a precursory read will get you lost! It is the type of book that will give you more on the second or third read.
I would guess that Ben-Hur would not appeal to some, but I would encourage you to give it a go, if you persevere, I think you will find it a long and satisfying read, Christian or not.