Friday, September 16, 2011

Book 29 – Rosemary’s Baby

By Ira Levin

Found this 1st edition 1967 hardback at a recent garage sale but was unfortunately missing the slipcover. I’d imagine it'd look like the very cool image shown here. Ira Levin had a real knack for tapping into the weird sexual politics of his time, creating bestselling novels out of tried and true themes.  

Rosemary’s Baby uses practically the same template as The Stepford Wives (or more like, The Stepford Wives uses the same template established by Rosemary’s Baby, since it came out after in 1972). Instead of a town conspiracy bent on dehumanizing its women, we have a conspiracy of Satanists out to get one woman within an apartment building in Manhattan. All the familiar Levin hallmarks are there:  the creepy underlying misogyny, the disintegrating marriage, the wife struggling to please her self-absorbed husband, the wife suspecting that her husband may not have her best interests at heart….

I don’t think I’m giving too much away here since everyone and their dog has seen the Roman Polanski film which, if I recall, is pretty faithful to the book.  The book was an entertaining read, but it didn’t blow my mind or anything. The satanic ritual where the drugged out Rosemary gets it on with the Devil was memorably dark and creepy, yet also hilarious at the same time (she thought it was her husband but at the same time wondered why he felt huger than normal).

Even though I knew how the story was going to play out, I still wanted to find out how events would unfold.  The narrative was nicely paced where everything seemed very normal at first, but as clues gradually got revealed, you felt that mounting sense of claustrophobic anxiety which the film also portrayed so well. Also in the book, more stuff happened after Rosemary gave birth unlike the abrupt ending in the movie version. Really made me want to watch the film again, since it’s been many, many years.

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