Rosemary’s Baby

rbabyTitle: Rosemary’s Baby

Author: Ira Levin

Summary: Rosemary Woodhouse and her struggling actor-husband Guy move into the Bramford, an old New York City apartment building with an onimous reputation and only elderly residents. Neighbours Roman and Minnie Castavet soon come nosing around to welcome them and, despite Rosemary’s reservations about their eccentricity and the weird noises she keeps hearing, her husband starts spending time with them. Shortly after Guy lands a plum Broadway role, Rosemary becomes pregnant and the Castavets start taking a special interest in her welfare.

As the sickened Rosemary becomes increasingly isolated, she begins to suspect that the Castavet’s circle is not what it seems.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 2/5

Review: I had such high hopes for this book. Mostly simply because horror, but still. I’ve owned the film on DVD for a few years, but had never watched it. Now i’m not sure i ever will (or, if i do, i wonder if this will be a rare case of film > book?).

I found the book to be much more of a psychological horror, rather than a gothic/supernatural horror the “devil baby” premise would have me believe. That itself isn’t a bad thing; psychological horror can be fantastically scary. Rosemary’s Baby, though, did seem to want to be a gothic/supernatural horror, while it also roamed the edges of psychological. Ultimately, it failed to get its teeth into either.

It scared me, i’ll give it that, but not in the way i like to be scared by horror, and not in the way it was trying to scare me. I wasn’t scared by the Satanist old couple next door, or the suspicious drinks, or the noises through the walls. I was scared by Rosemary’s husband claiming to have slept with her while she slept and her being okay with it. I was scared by Rosemary’s husband telling her not to read a book given to her by a by a dead friend, then throwing it away and, again, her being okay with it. I was scared by Rosemary’s husband, doctors, neighbours, “friends” constantly telling her what to do, what to think, controlling her every second. I was scared by Rosemary’s relationship with her husband, i was scared of how easily Rosemary was manipulated…

I was plain scared of Rosemary. I didn’t fear for her, i didn’t feel sorry for her, i didn’t even like her very much. I pitied her, and despised her husband. The kicker was, of course, the end. When Rosemary plucks up the courage to do something, to go after the people who stole her baby. But even in that, she was far too easily manipulated into overlooking the lying, the raping, the poisoning, the kidnapping… because BABY! All Rosemary was was a baby machine, but in the end, that was apparently exactly what she was happy being. It made me sick, but again, not the kind of sick horror is supposed to make me feel.

The plot itself was decent enough, but not well written. The hints and clues and foreshadowing were less than subtle, and the fact that the book is told from Rosemary’s point of view, that Rosemary is seeing the big obvious plot points the reader is, but she doesn’t manage to put together what they mean, is insulting to both Rosemary and the reader.

Unfortunately, i just can’t get past the weak and pathetic character Levin has created in Rosemary. If this had been played out as a psychological horror, but cleverly, without the simple-minded, meek and cliched housewife, it could have been something pretty amazing. But i can’t even mourn the potential in this book; the disgustingly bad in the book was as rank as the tannis root.

I had to fight to finish this book. It just made me angry and frustrated every time i picked it up, and i seriously considered throwing it across the room a couple of times. It’s just… bad.

This knocks one square of my Bookish Bingo: Set somewhere i want to visit.

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About Wendleberry
I'm odd.

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