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A haunting and macabre novel that is compelling as well as bewitching.

  • Jun 19, 2013
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Rating:
+5
The film version of Ira Levin's horror classic is probably more well known, ironically, than the actual novel is. As Stephen King mentions in his nonfiction book Danse Macabre "Horror Fiction": "It was one of those rare cases where if you had read the book you didn't have to see the movie, and if you had seen the movie, you didn't have to read the book." Page 295. The film was very close to the novel in its adaptation. But because books are always better than the films they inspire, which is certainly no less true with Rosemary's Baby, there were still enough nuances in the novel which weren't conveyed in the film that made me fully enjoy this dark and foreboding story of Satan and of his devilish offspring.

The novel revolves around Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse, the former a struggling New York actor and his beautiful and devoted wife who yearns to be a mommy-to-be. She is from the Midwest and is the keeper of faith and traditional values while Guy is the self-absorbed progressive and intellectual actor who rates success by being the possessor of the best of everything. Yet, as a young couple, they complement each other. She keeps him grounded and he offers her a sense of worldliness and excitement. On the cusp of signing a lease for an apartment that neither of the two are fond of, they discover an opening at the prestigious and gothic stylized Bramford Apartments, also known as Black Bramford, nicknamed that (unbeknownst to Guy and Rosemary) for its high rate of suicides and past residents who were killers, cannibals, occultists and practitioners of witchcraft. One would qualify it as a home that has a dark charm to it, if you're in to that kind of thing. Upon visiting it, Guy and Rosemary fall in love with the place and its potential and for the fact that it is located not too far from the theater district where Guy can always be near potential auditions. They ultimately do take the place and only learn of the Bramford's dark past by way of a writer friend named Hutch who unnerves Rosemary to the point of wanting to possibly get out of the place. But Guy calms her down, citing the absurdity of superstition, and Rosemary acquiesces.

While settling in, Rosemary befriends a young woman named Terry, a reformed drug addicted runaway whom Rosemary meets while doing laundry in the creepy basement; she is staying with an elderly couple by the name of Minnie and Roman Castevet a.k.a. Steven Marcato, an elderly childless couple who have a penchant for being overly kind and protective, but their goodness belies a darker want; they, coincidentally, live next door to the Woodhouses whose apartment was initially a part of the theirs until it got divided. Because the Bramford is old and eerie, Terry and Rosemary make a pack to do their laundry together, just so they don't have to be alone. With that gentle introduction by Terry of a warm elderly couple being so near by, Rosemary is comforted with a measure of security that if something were to, in all likelihood, go wrong, she would at least be in the immediate vicinity of good people similar to those in her native state of Nebraska. The reference to apathy that Rosemary makes clearly stemmed from the murder of Kitty Genovese, a woman whose neighbors did absolutely nothing when they knew that she was being viciously and repeatedly attacked. While Rosemary and Guy are out on an outing, something unfortunate happens to Terry, an unfortunate incident that eventually leads to the meeting of the Woodhouses with the Castevets. Through that meeting, Minnie and Roman endear themselves to Guy and Rosemary, flattering them and regaling them, especially Guy, with stories of the theatre and of their worldliness. Guy covets Roman and Minnie's life experiences, and to quench that insatiable hunger, he is let in on a little personal secret that Minnie and Roman harbor. They not only have an evil secret, they have an evil desire which involves Rosemary. For the tradeoff of his wife to a Satanic coven for a rebirth or revival of sorts of their demonic desires and philosophy, Guy will be will be compensated with riches and successes beyond his wildest imagination. And with that temptation floating before him, how can he possibly refuse? Utterly engaging and most definitely unsettling, Rosemary becomes an unwitting vessel, the incubator by which the son of the Evil one enters into earthly existence. The act is as sneaky and premeditated as it is manipulative, definite hallmarks of absolute evil.

Rosemary is a devout Catholic or at least she was raised to be. But in being with Guy and living during the time of the turbulent sixties in cosmopolitan New York, faith was indeed in question; people sought out cults and spiritual gurus or even going so far as to adhering to the catch phrase that God is Dead. All this people did, and traditional religion was cast aside. Rosemary who was raised to be devout faltered away from the ultimate truth into agnosticism, and due to that, became susceptible to the ultimate evil, with Guy, her pagan husband, acting as a liaison between the earthly realm and the demonic realm. The Castevets act as all-knowing ushers for Guy, helping him along the way. But in the end, it is Rosemary or "Roo" as Guy affectionately refers to her who suffers the most.

Rosemary's Baby is indeed a contemporary horror classic that slowly gets revealed as each layer is stripped away. The book is just as good as the movie and vice versa. And Stephen King is absolutely correct in his summation of Ira Levin, calling him "...the Swiss watchmaker of the suspense novel." Danse Macabre "Horror Fiction" Page 195.
A haunting and macabre novel that is compelling as well as bewitching.

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December 21, 2013
Very detailed analysis of this most famous story!
 
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More Rosemary's Baby (book) reviews
review by . May 18, 2010
A Review of Rosemary's Baby
Rosemary’s Baby: A Review   Much like Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby weaves ambiguity throughout the story to keep the reader guessing and propel the story to its shocking, but not entirely unexpected conclusion. Throughout the novel, the main antagonists Roman and Minnie seem strange. Nothing too out of the ordinary but definitely strange. Levin’s use of the protagonist is wonderful. She suspects something but because her dreams …
Quick Tip by . June 09, 2010
One of the first scary novels I ever read. A great, disturbing read!
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Christian Engler ()
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Rosemary's Baby is a 1967 best-selling horror novel by Ira Levin, his second published book. Major elements of the story were inspired by the publicity surrounding the Church of Satan of Anton LaVey which had been founded in 1966.
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