Top critical review
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on 9 May 2012
I don't think I need to summarise the plot, the book was made into a very famous film (which I haven't seen - I know, I should, it's a classic, etc), but suffice it to say that this is the story of the pregnancy leading up to the birth of the son of Satan.
The story is mostly absorbed in the details of day-to-day life for a stay at home wife of a working actor, a woman so dull that all she dreams of is setting up a family of her own and getting the perfect kitchen. No, this isn't the Stepford Wives, that's another of Levin's books. But I didn't care for Rosemary's character (or lack of), she's always whining to her husband to do things for her, she doesn't do anything herself, and then bumbles about passively until the last 40 or so pages when she finally wakes up.
Though a quick read, the novel isn't very interesting. It has some good moments such as the impregnation (rape?) scene of a drugged Rosemary who hallucinates a demonic being, and Levin convincingly creates an atmosphere of claustrophobic paranoia as Rosemary finally puts two and two together. But mostly nothing happens until the third act so there's a lot of nothing while we wait for Levin to decide to bring all the strands together.
I thought it was interesting that Levin was going for an ambiguous "is-she-crazy-or-is-this-real?" type conclusion a la "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson, until I realised that all of the clues leading up to the reveal at the end would have to be explained away if that was what he was going for. It was only going to end one way, which was cool, it's good to see a writer, especially in a horror novel, go for the solid ending (even if he wrote an unintentionally hilarious line in the last few pages: Rosemary is talking herself out of killing the devil baby "Even if he was half-Satan, wasn't he half-her as well?").
And I credit Levin with, as Chuck Palahniuk points out in his introduction, bringing horror from the distant castle/country and into Western suburbia. But that said, the book is too slow, too shallow and too uninteresting a story (until the final third act, and even then - meh) to warrant it as a modern classic, and Rosemary is too bland a heroine to root for or care about strongly. "Rosemary's Baby" is an interesting concept, not as well realised as I'd hoped, and certainly lacking in real horror, but a decent quick read.