Book name: Rosemary’s Baby
Author: Ira Levin
Publisher: Random House
Format: ebook, print, audiobook
Publication Date: 1967
Just why does so much in horror resolve around sex, fertility and childbirth? And why are so many pregnant women convinced that they are carrying the devil's spawn?
Rosemary's Baby was also adapted for film, starring Mia Farrow as Rosemary. Rosemary's Baby might only be 200 pages long, but it reads like a lengthier novel in terms of plot and character, mostly because of Ira Levin's crisp writing style and willingness to keep the pace moving. So it was a cinch for the old Hollywood treatment.
Rosemary Woodhouse is a housewife and her husband Guy is an actor. They take a four-room apartment in the Bramford, Central New York, despite the strong reservations of Rosemary's friend Hutch, who thinks the place has a bad aura.
It's broiling in the city in early August, and the young couple can't believe their luck in securing such a glamorous new home with airy rooms and plenty of quiet. Not even the revelation that the last tenant, Mrs Gardenia, has just died in hospital after weeks in a coma can deter them.
Age and experience have taught me that when a thing is too good to be true, that's because it isn't true. But Rosemary and Guy are young and brimming with confidence so they sign the lease without a qualm.
Soon, they are dining upstairs with their new neighbours, the Castevets, and Ira Levin drops enough sinister hints to keep us on our toes before the real horror of the Castevets is revealed.
Terry, who has had the Castevet take a financially generous interest in her, falls to her death onto the street while living with them in their apartment. The true evil of the Castevets emerges after Rosemary and Guy go to dinner with them. Rosemary becomes dizzy and then feels drunk.
During a hallucinogenic lovemaking experience, Rosemary falls pregnant. Guy was rough with her too, and this leaves a legacy of distrust on her part that subsequent events amply prove to be justified.
During the sweltering summer of her third trimester, Rosemary sweats it out in the city and slowly fears she's losing her mind about exactly what is growing within her.
Rosemary's Baby is a cracking novel - short, snappy, cinematographic and tense.
It made an easy transition to the big screen in one of the most faithful adaptations of a novel I can think of. Best of all, like all great horror, it taps into one of our most enduring terrors.
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