Review: Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

All Hallows ReadHello, and happy Monday! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.  On Saturday I attended a lovely wedding, although it still scares me that I’m at the age where my friends and peers are getting married.

Anyway! Speaking of being scared: I read Rosemary’s Baby in about three days. It’s an easy, quick read at only 300 pages, and it was a great one to start off my month of horror reading for All Hallows Read.

So, here’s the summary from Amazon:

Rosemary Woodhouse and her struggling actor husband Guy move into the Bramford, an old New York City apartment building with an ominous reputation and mostly elderly residents. Neighbors Roman and Minnie Castavet soon come nosing around to welcome the Woodhouses to the building, and despite Rosemary’s reservations about their eccentricity and the weird noises that she keeps hearing, her husband takes a special shine to 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 Castavets’ circle is not what it seems…

rbabyI found Rosemary surprisingly likable. She seemed sensible enough, although she bowed down to her husband’s wishes far too often. (I guess that’s the ’60s for you.) But at least Rosemary began to question things and put two and two together, unlike many characters in horror movies and books. Somehow I just can’t enjoy it as much if the main character doesn’t put up some sort of semi-intelligent fight. I was really rooting for Rosemary. Her behavior at the end of the story nearly killed me (but I loved it—what a great ending).

In the afterword of the book, Ira Levin notes that the suspense of a coming event can often be the scariest part of a story. Rosemary’s Baby is nearly all suspense—throughout the novel, I slowly pieced together clues about the Castevets’ evil religious practices, their motives and strange behaviors, and as Rosemary’s demonic fetus grew within her, so did my sense of dread. What was going to happen? Was it going to kill her? Burst out of her? Possess her? I had no idea. I loved the suspense—it’s what made it so frightening. The impending doom. Knowing that something evil was coming, was growing inside the protagonist.

Most of the real horror in this book happened offstage, so to speak, which added to the sense of doom. Until the very end, there were only hints here and there—the smell of tannis root, the black candles, the sounds of a recorder and chanting through the wall. The strange “nutritional smoothies” Minnie made for Rosemary. The sudden, suspicious illnesses of various people. The closest we get to any real “action” is when Rosemary is raped and impregnated—she has been drugged, so we see it through her dreamlike semi-aware state. I thoroughly enjoyed putting all the clues together while reading.

I recommend this book if you want to read a creepy, ominous story, but not a terrifying one. It’s pretty great. Now I have to go watch the movie.



2 thoughts on “Review: Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin”

  1. I think I would be able to handle this one. Creepy is okay, but something that would terrify me would not be something I would consider. I could barely sleep after watching The Conjuring and because my imagination runs wild when I read, reading horrors would be even worse for me 🙂

    1. Oooh, I haven’t seen The Conjuring yet, but I really want to! I know what you mean about your imagination running wild—I think books are often scarier than movies.

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