Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

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Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Not quite the classic the film version became, but this dark look at the ultimate in pregnancy worries is still well worth a visit on the page.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Corsair
ISBN: 978-1849015882

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A young couple find the beginnings of a dream life together in a new apartment in a New York building that a friend says is a hotbed of death and misfortune. But it seems perfect. His job prospects as an actor have never been better, and they're quickly accepted into the elderly community of their neighbours. What's more, she - Rosemary - gets pregnant. Nothing can go wrong, can it? None of this happiness and hope can come at a dreadful cost - can it?

This new edition of Levin's classic novels at least allows us, four years after his 2007 death, to examine what became hugely successful films. In this instance, it's with slightly mixed results. What is proven by the end to be a powerful exploration of the strength of the maternal spirit, written very perceptively for a man one might add, could lose marks when compared to the movie.

I can't remember all about the film, except to say it seems to have been a very faithful and honest version. I'm not sure however if it takes almost half of it before Rosemary's pregnancy is certified and heralded by a certain switch of obstetrician... But as Chuck Palahniuk's appreciation (which alone means his name is disrespectfully as large as Levin's on the cover) says, this is a horror located deep in the heart of urbanity, and that does need the slow-build - the core relationship of Rosemary and Guy, the unusual well-meaning elderly couple next door, the friend who might know too much about certain shady happenings, all have to be examined.

And Levin does that quite well, while always speeding to the conclusion one knows from the movies. He doesn't do it flawlessly - everything is said or asked, and characters never vocalise any other, more complex way. On the other hand the nightmare sequences, and instances of dipping into Rosemary's frame of mind, whatever it might be, are done quite expertly. Generally though it seems Levin's literary execution is certainly not as strong as his psychological perception and forethought.

Whether as book or as film this is well worth (re-) visiting, for it remains a punchy piece, even though it reads quite tame and PG-friendly for this day and age. I remember Mia Farrow as looking infinitely better with the long hair, making me perhaps one of 'them' in their appreciations, if not intent - just one detail Levin's basic but cinematic style brought back. If you're new to this, I think the doubt about Rosemary's mindset is even stronger, the build-up of clues for her to clutch at most darkly enjoyable, and the galling end still the only one possible. But at least, to repeat, we're able to handily turn to the source novel, and I must thank the Corsair imprint for that fact and for my review copy.

For more republished genre classics from that era, we recommend the work of Shirley Jackson. Levin, of course, also offered us his Stepford Wives.

Buy Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin at

Buy Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin at


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