Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

“The pain was terrible. And then she remembered. It was over. It was over. The baby was born…”

rosemarysbabyLike 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.


  1. It would be interesting to come up with a list of those works that are better known for their film adaptations. This would certainly be one of them, as would Blatny’s The Exorcist, which has been on my to read shelf for awhile now. (I was also surprised when, in an old Book club of mine, someone suggested we read The Princess Bride, which I had never thought of as a book!)

    I haven’t read Rosemary’s Baby, but I probably should though since I liked the movie. And there is of course another reason… You see, I AM Rosemary’s Baby. That’s actually my Mom’s name!


    1. I definitely recommend (whether you’re a rosemary’s baby or not!). That would be an interesting list. I have a feeling that there are a lot of movies that are made based on short stories that we don’t even realize. One that comes to mind is Secretary, which was based on a story by Mary Gaitskill. Also, I bet most people don’t realize that Dr. Strangelove was based on a book.

  2. I just read this for RIP too and enjoyed it. I think The Stepford Wives is better but still really good. It’s interesting that Levin chooses women as his protagonists, they were much more likely to be treated in this way at the time of his writing. It was very frustrating to me that Rosemary had no one to turn to.

    1. I know what you mean about the frustration. Levin did a really masterful job with such a brief novel when it came to tension and anxiety. Even when Rosemary had the slightest chance, he somehow dashed it just at the right moment.

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