Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

 

 

[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below it’s probably ad-blocker settings]

 

[I noticed that all of the official covers for the book are all pretty simplistic]

 

 

“Rosemary Woodhouse and her struggling actor husband Guy move into the Bramford, an old New York City apartment building with an ominous reputation and mostly elderly residents. Neighbors Roman and Minnie Castavet soon come nosing around to welcome the Woodhouses to the building, and despite Rosemary’s reservations about their eccentricity and the weird noises that she keeps hearing, her husband takes a shine to them.

Shortly after Guy lands a plum Broadway role, Rosemary becomes pregnant—and the Castavets start taking a special interest in her welfare. As the sickened Rosemary becomes increasingly isolated, she begins to suspect that the Castavets’ circle is not what it seems…”

 


 

Reading this book was one of those situations where I wish I had never seen the movie before finding that it was based on a novel; so I would be able to read the book first and experience the creeping paranoia and dread that the story is meant to submit the reader to. [As the readers know what Rosemary doesn’t.]

I haven’t watched RB in a few years, but everything that I remember in the movie happens in the book, all the main plot points are there. The book mostly just has a few extra details here and there that I remember weren’t in the movie, and after reading other reviews apparently it’s considered to be one of the most faithful horror book-to-movie adaptations of all time.

I’ve always been a fan of  the RB movie, both for it’s satanic panic/demonic themes as well as the horrifying concept of being pregnant with something you didn’t agree to. While Rosemary herself always wanted to be a mother, a lot of what happens to her isn’t consensual; which is horribly nightmarish.

As with most of my books I read, I have a physical copy as well as listen to the audiobook so I can stop and go as needed to keep listening to it even while busy doing chores/etc. The audiobook is narrated by Mia Farrow, which most would realize is the actress of Rosemary from the movie itself. It made for such a compelling listen that I ended up mostly using the audiobook to get through the story, and just bookmarked the book as I moved along. Which is also amusing because I saw a comment on the audiobook’s reviews that someone didn’t like the narrator’s voice because of their acting, which made me laugh pretty hard, wondering if they’d seen/would watch the movie and realize how asinine that comes across. Mia’s voice-acting chops are just as great as her on-screen performance.

Spoilers ahead so be warned, I’m sure most of you reading have seen the movie though.

One difference I’ll say that the book has more going for it than the movie is the detail of just how much of an asshole Rosemary’s husband [named Guy] is. He is an insufferable, vain, gaslighting, emotionally abusive piece of shit. It’s sort of hinted at that Guy only really married Rosemary as to have an attractive wife in order to try and look ‘normal’ while trying to make it as an actor, and lying to her that he wants children, but in reality doesn’t. He purposely chose her because of her naivety as a country girl that moved into the big city, and has little support system because her family didn’t approve of their dating/marriage. Guy essentially sacrifices her/throws her under the bus to orchestrate and allow her to be raped and impregnated by Satan in order to further his career to make it big as an actor. [In which when she wakes up covered in claw scratches and pain between her legs, he makes up the story that he ‘didn’t want to miss baby making night’ and had sex with her intoxicated, unconscious body as if that was any better? And when Rosemary says that her dreams and her body felt like it was raped, he laughs at her and says ‘gee thanks’ then gaslights her into doubting herself and how violated she felt]

He lies/gaslights her the entire pregnancy about the whole situation, including the witch/satan worshiping cult/coven, downplays her horrendous pain, tells her she looks fine when she essentially looks like a holocaust survivor [something multiple characters tell her]. He isolates her away from her friends/sacrifices some of them to the coven in order to stop them from interfering, and calls them ‘conniving bitches’ when they attempt to help Rosemary. Any time Rosemary has any sort of legitimate qualm against him, he just condescends that she’s just being emotional because she’s pregnant. He throws away her belongings, things that make her happy or interested in researching because he doesn’t want her finding out about the coven and her pregnancy. When she does pick up on the occult happenings, he just tells her she has ‘pregnancy hysteria.’ Rosemary is constantly doubting her own emotions, pain, and even sanity because of Guy. He refuses to help her while pregnant, recoils when she wants him to touch her stomach to feel the baby, and essentially leaves her to be completely manipulated by the coven. When she has the baby under extremely upsetting circumstances, he lies to her that the baby died and tells her that she should just pretty much get over it because they can start trying for new babies in a few months. After this when she’s screaming in grief,  says ‘I know you probably feel like you’re having the worst day of your life right now, but I gotta go do actor stuff now. K bye!’ and leaves her alone to keep being drugged by the coven.

Then once the cat is out of the bag and the cover is blown about the coven/the truth about the baby and it’s real father, he tries slithering back up to her and continues to downplay the entirety of the situation. Tells her that she wasn’t really hurt, and her pain was just temporary, and that she’s fine because she’s alive, and how it was ‘for them‘ and to ‘give them a better life’ and how she should just essentially get over it and move on because everything was fine now. Then  pretty much gets Surprised Pikachu Face when she spits in his face as soon as she’s able to. The author does a great job at really making you realize just how much of a slimeball her husband is. It legitimately had me raging at multiple points.

While again I am a bit bummed that the sense of building tension and paranoia was removed because I already knew the story and knew what happens to Rosemary/her baby and the twist, there’s another level of horror the entirety of the book that is Rosemary’s agency being removed. Not just her rape, but her entire  pregnancy. When she’s pregnant, she’s treated purely as a vessel. Even when she manages to escape to get help, she isn’t believed and is turned back over to her husband and doctor [who is also apart of the coven] who forcibly sedate her and also forcibly make her give birth at home and not in a hospital, only to continue to drug her to take her milk away after birth. But even strangers/people who aren’t apart of the coven just shrug at her treatment, with a ‘yanno how them dames be hormonal’ reaction. I know that it’s probably fairly accurate for the time, but jfc was it stomach-churning to get through.

While the book was a quick and easy read, anyone who has seen the movie has essentially read the book almost verbatim, so keep that in mind. A warning note though, because the book was written in the early 60’s, the cultural and racial lingo is… dated at best, and highly offensive at worst in a few cases. Outdated terms are used, and in the case of the single Asian person in the book, he’s just referred to as ‘The Japanese’ over and over, and the author decided he wanted to write  out how he spoke/his accent and boy is it cringe-inducing.

 



I give Rosemary’s Baby 4/5 Tannis Root charms

Rating:

 

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