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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Review: Rosemary's Baby (Book)

By Ira Levin

Hardcover, 245 pages
Publisher: Random House ©1967
Language: English

Rosemary’s Baby centers on a young woman named Rosemary and her experiences living in an old Gothic New York apartment complex with Guy, her struggling actor husband. Before moving into the Bramford, as it is called, they are warned by Hutch (a family friend) about the strange history of the building which includes a high incidence of cannibalism, murder, and witchcraft.

Despite the disturbing history of the Bramford, the couple decides to move into the Bramford and are quickly befriended by their eccentric neighbors Roman and Minnie Castevet. Though Rosemary wants to have children, Guy would rather wait until he is more successful in his chosen career. Over the course of the story, Guy becomes increasingly attached to the Castevets whereas Rosemary finds their attention somewhat meddlesome and suffocating.

Guy’s career begins to take off after his rival for a small but important part in a play is struck blind and he agrees to conceive a child with Rosemary. Guy and Rosemary plan to attempt to conceive after a romantic dinner one night. However, Rosemary mysteriously passes out shortly after dinner and what follows is a surreal dream which causes Rosemary to question her reality. Shortly thereafter, Rosemary learns that she is pregnant.

Several weeks go by whereupon Guy becomes increasingly distant to Rosemary, while she becomes more and more isolated in her apartment with only the Castevets for support. Several weeks pass and Hutch pays Rosemary a visit while Guy is out. Hutch is noticeably alarmed at Rosemary’s change in appearance and through his conversation with her becomes suspicious of Roman and Minnie.

Rosemary receives a warning from Hutch before he falls strangely ill and later dies. She follows the clues left behind by Hutch and confirms her suspicions that the Castevets lead a coven of satanic witches and believes that they intend to sacrifice her child to the devil. What follows is Rosemary’s attempts to protect her child and convince the world that not only do witches exist and are in league with Satan, but they are also after her unborn child.

Truth being stranger than fiction, after the birth of her child, Rosemary discovers to her horror the coven’s true reason for desiring the baby. Though the book’s plot is rather infamous now, owning to the faithful adaptation of the movie and its success, the ending presents a twist of apocalyptic proportions.

At roughly 250 pages Rosemary’s Baby is a quick read. Some characters are more fleshed out than others, with only a minimal back story. The plot is simple and quite compact, albeit somewhat slow at times. Told from Rosemary’s point of view, the plot keeps you guessing as she attempts to unravel the central mystery and the reader often wonders if she has been driven mad by her raging hormones?

Carolina Dean

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