Rosemary’s Baby…or, You Should Have Listened to Hutch…
Just finished this one last night and I was surprised that it didn’t creep me out that much. I haven’t seen the movie (or the mini-series advertised on the book), so all I had going in was a general knowledge of the storyline. Everything below refers to the book even though I’ve grabbed images from the movie to illustrate.
The story is about Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, who move into a historic New York City apartment building called The Bramford. Several famous actors live there. Guy is an actor as well. A good friend, Hutch, warns them about the history of The Bramford, which has been host to a large number of suicides and freak accidents, and some historic weirdos, like the Trench sisters, who were cannibals.
So, fair warning, Woodhouses.
Intrusive neighbors, jerky husband
After the couple moves in, suspense starts to build in the form of irritatingly nosey next door neighbors Roman and Minnie Castavet, who are always up in their business. An an introvert, this rankled me beyond belief. Even my closest neighbors aren’t as all-up-ons as these people. (This is why I will never be murdered by a neighbor or give birth to Satan’s baby.) The Castavets are always popping by and covering their nosiness with offers of help or worming their way into the apartment in some other way. Rosemary is too nice to stand up to them, even when she’s irritated.
Otherwise, Rosemary seems like a nice person with a good head on her shoulders. She spends her days redecorating the apartment and shopping and cooking Guy dinner. The couple have regular sex and seem to genuinely love each other.
That is until Guy goes through a combo bout of introspection and petulance, which he seems prone to. He’s like a moody teenager, that one. Rosemary just seems to chalk it up to his being an actor.
When he lands a great part in a Broadway play (in a really terrible way), things start to go south quickly. Rosemary gets pregnant and is happy about that, but is struggling with the fact that Guy actually raped her while she was supposedly passed out from drinking too much. Also, on the night in question, she had a weird half-waking dream where she saw her naked neighbors and heard chanting while, she supposed at the time, she was having sex with Guy. So there was that.
Rosemary’s pregnancy causes extreme pain and she’s pretty much housebound. She’s coerced into changing to a Castavet-recommended doctor who doesn’t treat her pain. Guy becomes even more distant. And nice Rosemary, who’s become even more weary of the Castavets, takes steps to refuse their intrusions…
This blows up in her face because, as we all know, she’s actually carrying Satan’s baby and Guy (that asswipe) has promised that baby to the Castavets and the rest of the Satan Squad in exchange for his Broadway part.
Things I liked
Rosemary: She may not be able to stand up to her neighbors, but I liked her anyway. The book talks about her past growing up in Omaha. She’s estranged from her Catholic family because she’s married a Protestant and dared to leave the family fold, in which her siblings are still enmeshed as they have 18 babies a piece back in Nebraska. I just found this backstory all very relatable even though it’s an obvious plot device. There’re no doting grandparents (including on Guy’s side), so there’s more room for the Castavets to move in.
Terri and Hutch: The deaths of Terri and Hutch, one an omen, one a major plot point, both contributed to raising the UH-OH level in their own ways. I thought the build-up throughout the book was delicious. As readers, we know something horrible is going to happen, so Rosemary’s household chores, juxtaposed with brief instances of terror, lends to the overall creep factor of the story as it builds to the end.
Things I didn’t like
The last scene: I enjoyed the ride pretty much right up until the little demon baby is born. When Rosemary finally starts standing up to everyone in the Satan Squad, including and especially Guy and the Castavets, it’s refreshing. She sneaks in to the Castavets’ apartment, where little baby Satan is being looked after, with a knife, intending to kill it. But in the end, little Rosemary is charmed by her demon baby and, we are to assume, takes on the role of mothering it.
It’s not just the conclusion that bothers me, though that’s annoying enough. The whole scene is kind of a mess. There’s lots of shouting and Hailing Satan, and it’s all very corny. It’s supposed to be creepy, the way Rosemary suddenly takes to her demon baby. But because it happens so quickly, and amidst the ridiculous hollering and hailing, I felt it was just lame, and maybe a good excuse for a sequel (which Ira Levin wrote, I’m sorry to say).
Did anyone see the NBC mini-series? Should I watch it?