I knew a little bit about Rosemary's Baby before I read it, but not nearly as much as I knew about The Stepford Wives, so it had that going for it from the outset. The things I knew (which I won't tell you about because what if you don't know?!) are sort of the big twist of the story, BUT there were still enough details and things I didn't know, like the twist at the end (it's a very twisty book) that made it completely worth reading, and completely excellent to read.
The story goes like this: Rosemary and her husband Guy are looking for somewhere new to live, and have actually agreed to live in one place when an apartment in a beautiful yet possibly cursed building which, of course, they can't resist. Upon moving into the apartment whose previous inhabitant died after being in a looooong (and obviously creepy) coma, Rosemary makes friends with a girl living next door with the old (and dare I add again, creepy) couple next door, and her apparent suicide kicks into motion a chain of horrifying events that could make a reader very very uneasy about a number of different things.
Because, here we go, things Rosemary's Baby has made me uneasy about:
- Trusting old people: They could be out to get you in ways I won't describe but let's just say it has something to do with religion. Of course.
- Moving out: So, of the few books I've read since leaving home, at least two of them (this, and The Stepford Wives, funnily enough) have involved characters leaving the safety of where they lived before for a new location where strange and terrible things start to happen. THANKS FOR THAT, IRA. Waiting for something weird to happen any day now.
- Having a baby: Yeahhh, that's kind of the whole deal with this one. I think there are a lot of interesting links to be made between the way women are treated when they're pregnant, and the ultimate badness that happens in this book. There's a real sense in which women are not allowed to think for themselves whilst pregnant, and whilst normally doing whatever doctors tell you to do is probably fine, what if it isn't? And also, what if bad things are happening and there are conspiracies and aghhhhhh *hyperventilates*. Basically, this book makes having a baby seem terrifying in quite a few ways, not just the obvious.
Speaking of that feminist thing*, Rosemary's Baby not only speaks out against women having no control over their bodies whilst pregnant (something which STILL happens today) but also makes it clear just how difficult womanhood was in the sixties. Rosemary is from the Midwest and doesn't speak to her family, which leaves her with Guy and Hutch, a father figure who mysteriously falls into a long coma somewhere in the middle of all the drama, leaving Rosemary with only Guy, who we can't be sure can be trusted. Somewhere else in the middle of all this is a marital rape (sort of- by which I mean, it's sort of marital, but it's definitely rape), which Guy tries to explain away by basically saying that he wanted to do it so it's fine. Thankfully, narrative-wise, it's not brushed over and Rosemary DOES have bad feelings about it, BUT it's also very clear that she has nowhere else to turn, and there's not much she can do other than go back to the husband that raped her (again, sort of.) It's very frustrating, but also thought provoking and, you know, I think we need that.
Other than thought provoking though, this book is just very very effective at making you feel uneasy and troubled and all of those other good things. I couldn't even tell you how Levin does it, but I guess it's something to do with the normal, everyday things that any of us could be doing, being combined with some occurrences that are very strange, scary even, that we then have to agree could also happen to us because the other things are so realistic too. I can see exactly why it was so popular in the sixties and was made into a film right away (or so the last season of Mad Men told me) because it's just so... gripping and scary but in a completely normal setting. Very effective stuff.
So, come one, come all! Read Rosemary's Baby for the thrills and chills, stay for the feminist discourse. Or... You could probably just read it for what it is (a pretty great horror novel) and skip all that boring stuff** because it's pretty fantastic either way. Just... Maybe don't read it tonight, ok? Because I feel like Halloween is the night when unease can turn to, you know terror. Especially if you're pregnant...
*'Oh, is that what we were doing?' I hear you cry! Yes. Yes it was. It always is, even when it seems like it's not.
**By boring stuff, I obviously mean the stuff that MAKES ME GO ON EVERY DAY. You know, the usual.