Wednesday, March 28, 2012

{review} rosemary's baby

Ira Levin Rosemary's Baby (1967)

'The dreams I had,' she said, rubbing her forehead and closing her eyes. 'President Kennedy, the Pope, Minnie and Roman …'
She opened her eyes and saw scratches on her left breast; two parallel hairlines of red running down into the nipple. Her thighs stung; she pushed the blanket from them and saw more scratches, seven or eight going this way and that.
'Don’t yell,' Guy said. 'I already filed them down.' He showed short smooth fingernails.
Rosemary looked at him uncomprehendingly.
'I didn’t want to miss Baby Night,' he said.
'You mean you—'
'And a couple of my nails were ragged.'
'While I was – out?'
He nodded and grinned. 'It was kind of fun,' he said, 'in a necrophile sort of way.'
She looked away, her hands pulling the blanket back over her thighs.
'I dreamed someone was – raping me,' she said. 'I don’t know who. Someone – unhuman.'
'Thanks a lot,' Guy said.
Oh I love Ira Levin. He is the master of uneasiness and menace. Are events for real? Is his protagonist imagining everything? Are we imagining everything? - or does devil worship lurk under twinset and pearls?

Rosemary and Guy, a young married couple, find their dream apartment in the glorious Bramford building in New York only to discover that the building has been the scene of some very nasty events in the past. Nevertheless, they settle down into a seemingly idyllic life ("She made Guy chicken Marengo and vitello tonnato, baked a mocha layer cake and a jarful of butter cookies.") and make friends with their very friendly neighbours Minnie and Roman. They think about starting a family. Rosemary is a stay-at-home wife; Guy is an actor struggling for a really good financially rewarding part. There are little hints of uneasiness from the beginning - "She was nine years younger than Guy, and some of his references lacked clear meaning for her" - but as Guy gets more and more involved with the oh-so-helpful neighbours and Rosemary learns more about the Bramford's dark history, the sense of menace grows. 

Has Rosemary's husband made a pact with the devil or is her pregnancy making her crazy?
Not long after telling Dr Sapirstein about the nearly raw meat, Rosemary found herself chewing on a raw and dripping chicken heart – in the kitchen one morning at four-fifteen. She looked at herself in the side of the toaster, where her moving reflection had caught her eye, and then looked at her hand, at the part of the heart she hadn't yet eaten held in red-dripping fingers. After a moment she went over and put the heart in the garbage, and turned on the water and rinsed her hand. Then, with the water still running, she bent over the sink and began to vomit.
This is an utterly spellbinding (ho ho) book - so chilling, so spooky, so witty ("The baby kicked like a demon"), so unputdownable, and with a typical Levin twist at the end.

Rating: 10/10.

If you liked this... I loved The Stepford Wives {REVIEW}. I loved The Boys from Brazil {REVIEW}. I've also now read and loved A Kiss Before Dying (see Teresa's incisive review).

   

2 comments:

  1. I must read this. I loved the movie--horror films from that era are my favorites. And the other Levin novels that I've read (A Kiss Before Dying and The Stepford Wives) were great.

    ReplyDelete

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