Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin: Review

rosemary's babyRosemary and her actor husband Guy move into their dream NYC apartment. The Bramford is a building with character- and a history of unusual deaths. Things are great at first. Sure, the elderly neighbours are a bit too involved in the new couple's affairs, but Rosemary is happy making their little nest as cozy as can be. Rosemary can't wait to start a family with her hubby! Sounds great, right? The only problem is that just about everyone in the building is a Satan worshipper and have evil designs on Rosemary's womb. But other than that, things are peachy!

Having also read The Stepford Wives earlier this year, I couldn't help but compare Levin's two popular novels. Rosemary's Baby doesn't quite have the satiric bite that The Stepford Wives has. There does seem to be a theme, however. In both novels, wives are convinced by their husbands' that their fears are ridiculous, all while they are plotting against them. Yes, those fears are outlandish, but they are true. In Rosemary's Baby, written in 1967, Rosemary is easier to control than the ladies of Stepford. She is much younger and because of the decade, easily believes the lies being told to her by her husband and her doctor. She doesn't have the knowledge or the power to stand up for herself, even though all her instincts tell her something is wrong. It isn't until the end of the story that the power shifts to her.

One of the most unsettling aspects of Rosemary's Baby is how a young woman is completely under the control of others. Who can she turn to for help once she suspects her husband of evil deeds? And what about the doctor that convinces her that the pain she is feeling will go away in a few days? No one. She just gets mansplained. She becomes isolated in the Bramford, surrounded by people who are up to no good. It must be a terrifying feeling to have no one listen to you. This is the second Levin novel I've read where the men are selfish, greedy bastards. What was he trying to say?

Religion plays a big part of the story. Rosemary was raised a Catholic, Guy has no beliefs. The Pope's visit to New York is a big deal at the beginning of the novel. I found it strange that people who confess to not believing in God believe in the Devil. This seems at odds. Can you have one without the other?

I didn't think that Rosemary's Baby was a very scary story, at least not the Satan parts. Some of it was silly actually. Rosemary's dreams about the Kennedys are funny. The neighbours don't fit the Satan worshipping stereotype. They're all elderly, well to do people. Rosemary finds it strange that Guy wants to hang out with them. And I don't care how nice they seem to be, I could not stand all that "dropping in" that they do. My introversion would leave me cold to the Satanists' charm.

Rosemary's Baby is a quick read with a solid plot. Ira Levin was a playwright and the movie, adapted by Roman Polanski, sticks close to the book. You won't be bored by the novel and the twist at the end is pretty clever.

16 comments:

  1. Good review! I've never seen the movie but I know the story. Would it be better to read 'The Stepford Wives' first?

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    1. I'd read Rosemary's Baby first and save Stepford for later.

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  2. I remember the movie scaring the pants off me when I was a kid, but I've never read the book. Sounds kind of cool and retro. I love the theme: just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean someone isn't out to get you!

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    1. Yes on the paranoia! It's true for poor Rosemary.

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  3. I thought this book was creepy when I read it years ago. Have you seen the movie?

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    1. I saw the movie a few years ago. Since it sticks close to the book, there weren't many surprises for me.

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  4. Hmmm, want to read. I think the university library has it which is pretty tempting.

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  5. I have a feeling I would not have wanted to be married to that author!

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  6. I didn't realize Ira Levin wrote both this and The Stepford Wives. I watched the movie when I was about 20 and thought it was kinda boring.

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    1. It's very 1960s, that's for sure. Scary for the time, I guess.

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  7. I have never read this book, but when I polled my readers a couple weeks ago, this one showed up as a scary, creepy, disturbing read! I need to check it out!

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    1. I saw that on your list. It's definitely disturbing.

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  8. I too had never realized the two stories, so well known because of their films, were written by the same person. Fiction that entertains and makes you learn something as well, yay! :)

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    1. I was surprised by that too. He was made for Hollywood.

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