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[645] Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin

1baby

” She had been eating her meat rare; now she ate it nearly raw—broiled only long enough to take away the refrigerator’s chill and seal in the juices. ” (Part 1, Ch.4, 141)

The story of Rosemary’s Baby is very simple, despite its absurdly bizarre ending: In summer 1966, Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse are given the chance of an apartment in the much-coveted Bramford after being waitlisted for a long time. The only person who tries to talk them out of the move is Rosemary’s friend Hutch, who actually dies later when he’s within the hair of teling Rosemary the secrets of the building and its shady inhabitants.

One morning, when two or three weeks had gone by, she thought she heard a baby crying. She rayed off the television and listened. There was a frail faraway wailing. Or was there? (Part 3, Ch.1, 225)

Shortly after Woodhouses move in, Guy, a struggling actor, gets a major break in Broadway. The Castevets, their strange and overbearing neighbors, also take a special interest in Rosemary’s welfare after she becomes pregnant. They give a charm and daily drinks made from home-grown herbs. Everything seems to work in her favor until she becomes so emaciated from incessant grinding pain and lack of sleep.

You look like Miss Concentration Camp of 1966. Are you sure this doctor knows what he’s doing? (Part 2, Ch.5, 154)

Tension builds as Rosemary becomes more isolated during her pregnancy. She begins to suspect the Castevets’ motives but whatever evil force at work seems to have singled her out for the achievement of its goal. This creepy atmosphere is gradually escalating, as the setting changes from an idyllic yet blank family life into a nightmare. The book reflects on the wicked human nature and its inner demons, and shows it’s impossible for a humane and morally innocent person to survive in this world of evil. Much of the book is masterful. It’s creepy but not scary—creepy in the way that Rosemary has been chosen from the beginning, as if the apartment irradiates a magnetic field to absorb her. What happens to Rosemary is predictable. The ending is disappointing, with revelation full of unbearable cliché. That said, it was an important book to revive occultism in fiction.

245 pp. Pagesus Books. Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]

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