Let's just say, I'm not old enough to have been there the first (or perhaps even second?) time round. Rosemary's Baby was, to me, just one of those stories that you kind of knew without reading the book or seeing the famous film adaptation. It was like legend among my friends as children, when it was retold at sleepovers by the lucky/naughty few who had stayed up late with the babysitter one night and witnessed Mia Farrow's harrowed distress. It is a classic that has become almost a definition of it's genre. And it was about time I read it.
I'm so glad I did! What I had been missing out on all these years was a tense thriller of "is she?/isn't she?" madness and unexplained goings on, bustling with great characters. The edition I bought had an introduction by Chuck Palahniuk, and I think he was the perfect voice to set you up for the story that followed. (Not unfamiliar to a freaky story himself!)
When Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse move into "the Bram" block of apartments in New York, they do so despite warnings from their close friend Hutch, who tells them of a series of disturbing events (cannibalism, deaths, occult conjurings) that have occured at the apartments throughout history. The young couple put the stories of bad luck down to hearsay and coincidence, and begin their life at the Bram with much hope of starting a family. They meet their neighbours in the block - Mr and Mrs Castavet - and begin an unlikely friendship with the old couple, who they see almost as parent figures. They share dinners, chores and stories, and quickly get to know each others' circle of friends.
When Rosemary falls pregnant, however, she begins to suspect her neighbours' meddling intentions as something far more sinister: what is in the drinks Mrs Castevet keeps bringing her? Why is Rosemary being told the constant pain she is in is nothing? Why has Guy suddenly fallen into such unlikely good luck with his acting career?
In his introduction, Chuck Palahniuk describes how Rosemary's Baby brought horror to the normal lives of readers. No longer were these sinister goings on in a motel on the highway, or in a cabin in the woods. Now, they were on your doorstep, and they were after your baby. I agree with him that the genius of Rosemary's baby is in the everyday familiarity of it. I can imagine that in a time where such neighbourly community was common place, the horror at discovering they had dark secrets would have been unthought of!
I think another sign of it's time though, was the ending. When the book was first published, the birth of Satan's child would have been fairly controversial - but reading it today, I felt it just a little bit ... camp. The description of the child felt cliched, the group mentality of the cult felt tired and the anagram of the name was of no suprise to me - but I have a feeling that is simply because this book spawned so many copy cats. I have to remember that this book came way before me, and far before anything else I have probably read on the theme.
Overall, Rosemary's Baby was a brilliant book to read. Highly recommended to those who don't yet know it, or who want to find a modern classic of the horror genre.
book chuck palahniuk classic cult famous horror ira levin legend mia farrow modern classic novel review rosemarys baby
Rosemary's Baby - review
Emma is a designer living in Bristol, UK. A self-confessed stationery addict, book lover and TV sci-fi geek, she enjoys sketching zombie-eyed women and finding her next source of inspiration in the pages on the bookshelf.