“The pain was terrible. And then she remembered. It was over. It was over. The baby was born…”
Like most people, my familiarity with Rosemary’s Baby comes from the excellent film adaptation by Roman Polanski. In my edition of the book, the short but intriguing introduction penned by Mysterious Bookshop owner, Otto Penzler, states that Polanski–who was new to Hollywood filmmaking–had not realized that he could take liberties with the source material, which is the norm with adaptations. But enough about the film and more about the book!
Although, I had already known the outcome of the narrative and what lies behind every twist and turn of Rosemary’s Baby, I still found myself creeped out by the novel. The writing is unadorned and straight to the point, but Levin is able to do something interesting with his words. What stood out to me was young Rosemary’s constant battle between the people trying to control her and her pregnancy (and, for that matter, her everyday life). Her insufferable husband, Guy Woodhouse, thinks she is just a silly housewife whose duty is to make him breakfast and to read him lines while he is rehearsing for his next play. When Rosemary, amid her fear of a conspiracy to take her unborn baby from her for a more dastardly endeavor, reaches out to an obstetrician she once saw, who ultimately thinks she, too, is a frivolous woman who must be taken away by her husband and attending obstetrician. Her fears and worries are not considered and her husband Guy says, “[Dr. Sapirstein] has a name for it. Prepartum I-don’t-know, some kind of hysteria. You had it, honey, and with a vengeance.”
What always enthralled me about Rosemary’s Baby was the idea of paranoia and suspicion. Rosemary begins by rationalizing her own doubts but, as the story evolves, it becomes a “who can she trust” scenario that leads to the reader’s rapid heart beat and intense desire to turn page after page. With Rosemary doubting her situation and sanity, so does the reader.
“This is no dream, she thought. This is real, this is happening.”
While many people may argue that Rosemary’s Baby is not horror so-to-speak, I don’t concur. The horror of the story is that Levin has setup a real world that is so average and filled with evil represented in the most mundane and unsuspecting of people.
Rosemary’s Baby is Number 2 on my RIPXVIII list.