When I was a young teenager, my mum and I had a conversation about horror books. I was wanting to read some and she had read many of what are now known as classics. She had quite a few suggestions, Ira Levin’s works being among them. This was one of them. I managed to get hold of a copy from the local library and read it in one day. I was hooked. A year or so later, I saw the film and that increased my love for the book even more. A couple of weeks ago, I put Rosemary’s Baby on my amazon wish list and the husband ordered me it (or so I thought). Then this turned up. It turned out to be the original US Random House first edition! Reading a much loved book in first edition form turns it into a very special experience. I’m lucky to be married to someone that enables my book addiction as random books keep turning up in the post!
By now, most of you will know of Rosemary’s Baby. It really is a classic horror story. But in many ways, it’s the underlying treatment of Rosemary at the hands of her husband that provides much of the horror. She’s very much dominated by him in ways that she doesn’t realise. The book’s supposed main horrific scene where she’s raped by “the devil” isn’t just a clichéd scene in standard horror. The morning after is equally disturbing. Guy claims responsibility for scratches and cuts on her body, claiming that he didn’t want to miss the scheduled sex (they’re trying for a baby), so he tells her he had sex when she was unconscious (effectively claiming rape). This disturbs Rosemary in a way she can’t articulate but it’s clear she felt violated.
Guy also rail roads her and bullies her using guilt manipulation and gaslighting techniques throughout the book, adding another subtle layer to the more obvious horror (the film also portrays this effectively). You end up not only rooting for her to escape the clutches of the coven, but equally, the clutches of Guy. For me, there is more than one devil in this story – the men are devils in human form, none more than Guy.
If you by any chance haven’t read the book and enjoy horror stories, then this one really is recommended. There are some unsavoury turns of phrase and words present – the word negro is mentioned more than once, and although you feel a jolt of disgust, it doesn’t detract from the story, in fact it just adds to the overall unsettling atmosphere of the book.
I wouldn’t recommend buying a new copy of this. Try and find a 2nd hand copy (especially if you’re using amazon) as you don’t know just how much of a special copy you’ll end up with. This first edition cost the grand sum of £5.43!
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