Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Review: Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

Title: Rosemary's Baby

Author: Ira Levin

Year: 1967

Rating: 4/5

Plot: Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse are a young married couple just about to move into the Bramhouse, an old Gothic-style New York City apartment complex with a disturbing history of witchcraft and murder.

After the suicide of a young woman living down the hall, Guy and Rosemary befriend their neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Castevet, an eccentric elderly couple who invite themselves into the Woodhouses' lives more and more as time goes on.

When Rosemary's falls pregnant, she begins to suspect that her meddlesome new neighbours aren't quite what they seem when mysterious happenings begin to surround her and her new baby.

Review: This book has everything you could want in a quick horror novel. Though it's only a meagre 200 pages, Levin manages to draw up a full cast of well thought out, third-dimensional characters that take you through the story in the most intense, knee-knocking and nail-biting way.

Rosemary is a curious character. She's a young housewife who clearly dotes on her husband and longs to become a mother. But we always sense that there's much more to her. Though she spends her days setting up the house, there's a strength inside her that we catch glimpses of from the very beginning. She isn't afraid to speak to her new neighbour friend, in spite of the spookiness of their surroundings (in the basement); she voices her opinions on the strange elderly couple down the hall; she won't take crap from her husband.

It is this depth and honesty that makes us connect with Rosemary, and that is where the problem truly begins because we find that we can not bear to leave her alone to face the oncoming nightmare. Once Rosemary begins to suspect that her new friends are hiding something dark, Levin takes us deeper and deeper into the horror with every page, finding new and shocking ways to terrify us. With our new attachment to Rosemary, we can't help but feel just as trapped and claustrophobic as she feels in the confines of her new appartment.

This was a really remarkable book. I'd seen the film for the first time last year and, as I was reading the novel, found myself having to look up both release dates. The novel came first but it is so vivid and well-written that it's easy to believe Ira Levin saw his own version of this.

There's no big build-up to the suspense as the action starts from quite early on but each chapter's pace is steady enough to get sucked in to.

This is a must-read for any horror fan: It paved the way for the likes of The Omen and The Exorcist, and, unlike most half-hearted attempts at the genre these days, is well-focused on its characters and creating the terror around them by putting them in realistic situations.

I really enjoyed this. I'd read it again for a quick scary read. You should too. And then you should check out the film - it's a fabulous adaptation. (How ironic that I'm talking about a tale Roman Polanski directed during the week he's back in the press.)

This is the first book for my R.I.P. Challenge.  


Amanda said...

I saw the movie version about 7-8 years ago and wasn't real impressed - I mean, was it meant to be scary? I must have missed something. I actually honestly wonder if I got the wrong version or something. Like maybe parts were censored out. I'd like to read the book, though.

Ryan said...

i love the movie, along with the movies for The Exorcist and The Sentinel. I have not read any of the books though and I really should.

Violet said...

oohhhh...a pop up box, thank you Ceri.

I loved The Rosemary's baby, I loved how subtle the horror is. It wasn't what I expected but I love it anyway, haven't seen the movie though.

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

Love the film version! But I'm an ashamed horror fan to not have read the actual novel. I'm kinda curious how the follow-up novel "Son of Rosemary" is too.

Ceri said...

Amanda - Haha, that's so weird. Yeah, the whole devil worship chanting next door and then her giving birth to Satan's spawn ... That was scary. ;-) The book's very similar to the film.

Ryan - I haven't seen The Sentinel. Will have to check it out. I love The Exorcist.

Violet - You're welcome. I knew the embedded was driving people nuts.

Joanne - Ooh, yeah, me too. I'm really looking forward to reading hr sequel. :-D

JaimeLovesStuff said...

I have never read the book either! I really ought to because I loved the movie.

*I have been an awful blog friend, lol, been so busy to comment on everybody's blogs.. trying to catch up soon! oh and I wonder if I could mail you a packet of Kool Aid? I don't see why there would be any issue in the mail, do you? I have received chocolates from my pen pal in Switzerland.

Susan said...

I have always wanted to read this one! I must have seen the movie dozens of times over my life, and I love it!

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I've been wanting to read this book for so long, but I had kind of forgotten about its existence... oops! It sounds like a must-read for me; great review!

Unknown said...

Hi, Ceri! Oh my goodness! I've read this book when I was a teenager (more than 20 years ago, I admit) and I remember being totally creeped out! Thanks for reminding us about this classic horror novel. Now if only I can find my copy.

Ryan said...

I would be more than willing to send you some Kool Aid as well :-)

I have an award for you when you get a chance.


Ceri said...

Jaime - If you love the film, you'll love the book. ;-)

Susan - I love the film too. It's sooo creepy.

Kay - Thank you. Do it. Give it a go. :-D

Peter - Yeah, I love this book. I love all the old horror books of the 60s and 70s. They're so creepy.

Ryan - Thank you. :-D

The Bookworm said...

I HAVE to read this one. The movie is one of my favs. I had no idea this was a book until I found out at your blog.
Great review!

Ceri said...

Naida - Do it. The film is really similar to the book - a really good adaptation - so go for it :-D