Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin – Book review

I fancied a scary read in the run up to Halloween, so turned to some classic horror with Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. When I tell you this book made me miss my stop on the train, you’ll get an understanding of how engrossing it is! Also – a moment for the cover of the below edition – such good artwork!

Opening sentence: Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse had signed a lease on a five-room apartment in a geometric white house on First Avenue when they received word, from a woman named Mrs Cortez, that a four-room apartment in the Bramford had become available.

Have you seen the film?

Yes, I’ve seen the iconic movie starring Mia Farrow, so I knew the plot, but that didn’t take away from the enjoyment of reading this book. The tension and drama is built up perfectly. In fact, during the last quarter, I was the most stressed reading I’ve been in a long time! The suspense and sequence of events is so brilliantly done.

And what are those events? Well…

Set in the 1960s, Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse are married, in love and excited to be starting life together in the famous Bramford apartment block. Hutch, Rosemary’s friend warns them that the apartment block has bad karma, with a series of grisly events taking place there, but Rosemary and Guy do not heed his warning and move in anyway.

They decide to try for a baby and this is when things get weird. They have made good friends with their older neighbours, Roman and Minnie Castevet and they (especially Minnie) take an unhealthy interst in Rosemary’s pregnancy, almost like they have something invested in the baby Rosemary is carrying…

Devilishly good writing

I really enjoyed the writing style here – it was clear, to the point but used with great power. The way it plays with reality and dream sequences and sets Rosemary up against everyone else is so clever. Is Rosemary being embroiled in an awful plot and being heavily gaslit by all around her, including her husband, or is she mad? Neither is an ideal situation for Rosemary…

You’re lying. You’re lying! You’re lying! You’re lying! You’re lying! You’re lying!

As author Chuck Palahnuik points out in his intro, Rosemary’s Baby has so much power because it brings the threat into the home, it’s something Rosemary couldn’t escape from. The setting isn’t an isolated, haunted house, it’s a New York apartment block, albeit with a chequered, satanic, witchcraft themed history…

Actually, I got echoes of another book I recently read: Mrs. March by Virginia Feito (or rather, Mrs March gave a nod to Rosemary’s Baby) in the setting of luxe New York apartment with a sinister undertone.

Ira Levin wrote a sequel in 1997, Son of Rosemary, set 30 years after this book and although I’m intrigued to see how the story continues, the reviews are less than favourable, so won’t be adding it to my TBR just yet…

Let’s just bask in the dark, dramatic, wonderfully mad glory of this psychological horror classic. Hail Rosemary’s Baby!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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