Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

This is one of my favorite horror novels and movies. It’s one of those stories that takes a seemingly ordinary situation and turns it topsy-turvy and perfectly captures the real life hell of being caught up in an unbelievable, seemingly impossible, situation that would make any normal person, as well as the world at large, question their sanity.

The story begins in New York in 1965. Rosemary Woodhouse is a happy young housewife, married to a handsome actor. They've just moved into their dream apartment, in the elite, Victorian apartment house known as The Bramford, and are looking forward to starting a family.

Rosemary and Guy choose to ignore the warnings of a friend that The Bramford has a rather unsavory reputation with a higher incidence of suicides that other apartment buildings. Stories about the Trench Sisters, a pair of proper Victorian spinster cannibals who ate several young children, and Satanist Adrian Marcato, who was attacked by an angry mob after he claimed to have conjured up the living devil, fail to scare them off.

They move in and Rosemary blissfully begins redecorating while Guy pursues his acting career. An elderly couple, the Castevets, who live next door, are quick to befriend the young couple. Guy is enthralled by Roman’s tales of great actors and actresses of bygone days, and Minnie is a loud-mouthed, nosy, but seemingly harmless old lady.

But happiness soon turns to horror. It turns out their neighbors are part of a satanic coven, many of whom reside in The Bramford. Guy, in exchange for a little otherworldly assistance in furthering his career, joins them. Curses are put on all who oppose or stand in the coven’s way—a well-meaning friend of Rosemary’s who grows suspicious falls into an inexplicable coma, and an actor who lands the role Guy covet’s suddenly goes blind. And, to pay for his success, Guy gives something in return—his wife. The chocolate mousse Rosemary is given for dessert is drugged and she is given to Satan, to become the mother of his living son. The drugs, at first, make it all seem like a really weird dream, but as the novel progresses, at it’s brisk, highly readable pace, Rosemary gradually wakes up to the bizarre and horrific reality.

Although it all sounds rather far fetched  the novel, and the movie it inspired are so well done, that you can suspend disbelief and sympathize with poor Rosemary as her dream of happy married life and motherhood becomes a living, and all too real, nightmare.

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