Title: Rosemary's Baby
Author: Ira Levin
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.
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Title: Rosemary's Baby