Monday, 10 June 2013

Rosemary's Baby

This month I was toying with a theme; following the release of The Great Gatsby, perhaps I could base my month's reading on books that were made into films?

My subsequent Google search brought me to Rosemary's Baby. Adapted by Roman Polanski in 1968, Ira Levin's second novel was far from what I normally read, but embracing the spirit of Movie Month, I decided to give it a go.

Creepy and unnerving, this is the tale of a young couple who ignore warnings of serial killers, Satanists and suicides in their block and move into a new apartment, seduced by its old world charm and generous space. After the initial shock of their neighbour's suicide, things start to go well for the couple; but how much of that is to do with the influence of overbearing neighbours Roman and Minnie Castavet, with their strange midnight chanting and unknown good luck charms...?

When Rosemary falls pregnant, it had been everything she had wished for. But as the pregnancy progresses, her suspicions increase. Who are the Castavets? Why are they so interested in her and her husband? And just what is that crippling pain that never ceases?

This was a deeply unnerving read for many reasons. Minnie and Roman's suburban Satanists are brilliantly banal; they are unsettling in how well they fulfil the role of the harmless, elderly neighbours. Even as suspicions build about their links with the dark side, there is a slight sliver of doubt that perhaps they are just harmless old folk with boundary issues. Meanwhile, you feel Rosemary's world narrowing around her. Just who can she trust? How complicit is her husband, Guy? Would he really sell out her womb for his career?

Some parts of this were very unsettling. The conception of the baby is a scene that is still playing on my mind somewhat, and the ending was definitely not what I expected. I'm still not sure if I felt this was the right way to end the tale, but it definitely provided a brilliant twist!

This is a very easy to read book with its power deriving from its simplicity, so it's a good one for the commute in that sense. It is full of suspense, surprise and stays with you for a long while after. In my view, definitely worth a try, but be prepared to feel ever so slightly on edge throughout.

As for the film theme - if anyone has a favourite book that's been adapted, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below. I'm open to suggestion!

(Available in paperback and Kindle format from Amazon)