Book Discussions “Rosemary’s Baby”

Posted: October 12, 2012 in Discussions, On Books
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Yay! The moment you’ve all been waiting for; book discussions!

As usual, my warnings for this post/story: SPOILER ALERT. I discuss the entirety of the story, so if you have not read Rosemary’s Baby, I suggest you do so before reading this post. Also, this story contains adult themes and adult situations. It is probably not suitable for children and young readers.

Without further delay:

Overview:

Rosemary and her husband, Guy, had just signed a promissory note on a lease when they learn that there is an open apartment in the Bramford building, where they have been on a waiting list for the apartment since they first got married. After looking at the apartment, the couple decides that it’s perfect and they want it. So they concoct a lie to get out of the lease on the other place, and move in after having the place fixed up a little. A friend of Rosemary’s, a man she calls Hutch, tells the couple of terrible things that have happened in that apartment building, and urges them to find somewhere else, though she won’t have it. Shortly after moving in, Rosemary meets a young woman who is a recovering drug addict. The woman’s name is Terry and she lives with Rosemary and Guy’s neighbors, the Castevets. Rosemary is delighted to have found a friend in Terry, and is shocked to find upon returning home from a night out, that Terry had leapt to her death. Outside of the apartment building, Rosemary talks to the Castevets, trying to comfort them in their loss. They soon become friends, and Rosemary and Guy go to Minnie and Roman Castevet’s apartment for dinner. There the couples discuss religion, and Mr. and Mrs. Castevet make their strong feelings against religion known. Guy takes a liking to Roman and decides to go back to visit him the next day, something Rosemary finds a bit strange, but brushes off. Minnie comes to visit Rosemary and gives her a necklace Terry had shown Rosemary. The necklace has a strong odor, a herb Minnie calls “tannis root”, which is supposed to be good luck. After wearing it for a little while, Rosemary decides she doesn’t like it and stashes the necklace away in tinfoil to keep the smell down. Rosemary begins to see a change in her husband, he becomes more quiet and reserved, and one night he gives Rosemary tickets he got from his vocal coach, Dominik, for a play. She goes with a friend, and upon returning home, finds that Guy is back to himself. One day the phone rings. Guy answers it to find that Donald Bumgart, the man he’s been competing with for a part, has just gone blind (since Guy is an actor), and he now has the part. Rosemary and Guy discuss the future and whether or not they should begin trying to have children, which is what she’s always wanted. They agree and set a night for a romantic dinner. That night Minnie sends over extra chocolate mousse for the young couple. Rosemary doesn’t like the mousse and thinks it’s chalky, but Guy makes her feel bad for not eating it, so she eats a little more, and hides the rest in her napkin. Shortly after, Rosemary begins to feel dizzy. She blames it on the alcohol she’s drank and goes to bed early, only to have a strange and vivid dream where the Castevets and their friends are doing some sort of ritual and she is being raped by some huge leathery beast. Rosemary wakes in the morning to find scratches all over her body. Guy tells her that he had gone along with their plans for the night, even though she was passed out. Rosemary is angered and a bit hurt, she can’t understand why her husband would do such a thing. She leaves for a week and stays in Hutch’s apartment. Shortly after returning home, Rosemary finds that she’s pregnant and is overjoyed. She signs on with Dr. Hill, but is referred to a Dr. Sapirstein by Mr. and Mrs. Castevet, who are good friends of the doctor. The doctor tells her not to read baby books or talk about pregnancy with her friends “because each pregnancy is different” and he doesn’t want her worrying about her pregnancy. He tells her that he doesn’t trust prenatal pills, so he has Minnie make Rosemary a fresh herb shake every day. Rosemary develops a pain in her abdomen. Dr. Sapirstein tells her it’s normal and should cease in a few days. It does not, and Rosemary has to deal with this pain day in and day out. Hutch comes to visit Rosemary and is shocked by her appearance, she seems to have lost weight and he thinks she’s sick until she shares her baby news with him, and assures him that she’s fine. Roman happens to stop by and meets Hutch, who is intrigued by the “tannis root” necklace, as well as the Castevets themselves. He mentions that he will research “tannis root” since he’d never heard of it. He calls Rosemary that night and asks her to meet with him to discuss something he won’t mention over the phone. When Rosemary goes to meet him and Hutch doesn’t show up, she calls around and finds that he’s mysteriously slipped into a coma the previous night. Rosemary is confused and saddened. Her pains continue, and another strange symptom develops; Rosemary’s craving for raw meat, to which her doctor says that she should give in to her cravings. One day, she decides to throw a party for her friends, and doesn’t include the Castevets and their friends. A few of Rosemary’s friends are concerned about her appearance. She tells them about the pain she’s been having and how her doctor doesn’t do anything about it. They urge her to get a second opinion, and after the party Rosemary brings this up to Guy who becomes agitated and doesn’t like the idea. Then suddenly, as they’re arguing, Rosemary’s pain lets up and goes away completely. The baby begins to kick and move, and Rosemary’s pregnancy seems to finally settle into normality. She feels better than she has yet while being pregnant and is overjoyed. Guy performs in the play he’s been working on and receives praise despite the play’s poor quality. Life continues on and Rosemary prepares for the baby. One day she receives the news that Hutch has died. She goes to his funeral and meets the woman who told her on the phone that Hutch had slipped into the coma in the first place. The woman tells Rosemary that Hutch came out of his coma in the end thinking he still had an appointment the next day with Rosemary, he demands a certain book he was reading when he slipped into the coma get to Rosemary, and says it’s of extreme importance, then dies. The woman gives the book to Rosemary and tells her it’s about witch craft. Upon reading the book at home, Rosemary finds that Roman Castevet is the son of a famous Satanist who claimed to have brought the devil to the Bramford and was killed for it. The book also mentions using the blood of an infant for rituals, and Rosemary fears that the Castevets have befriended herself and Guy to get at their baby.  Frightened by this find, and unable to convince Guy, she goes to Dr. Sapirestein with her suspicions. He tells her that Roman is ashamed of his past, and that it won’t matter soon any way because Roman is dying and plans to leave on one last trip around Europe. This relieves Rosemary, and she and Guy bid the Castevets good-bye. Yet, later, Rosemary is certain she’s heard sounds coming from the Castevet’s “empty” apartment. One day, while out and about, Rosemary bumps into Dominik, Guy’s old vocal coach, and she thanks him for the tickets for the play. He says that he never had any tickets to give and that it must be a misunderstanding. Rosemary begins to see correlations between what she read in the witch craft book and some of the strange things that have been going on lately. She begins to believe that Guy has joined the Castevets coven and used their powers to get Donald Bumgart out of his way for the part and plans to give the coven their baby in return. Rosemary ditches the “tannis root” necklace, which she now believes to actually be Devil’s Fungus, and which she’d begun wearing again after her pregnancy pain ceased. She’s so frightened she wants to cry, and is unsure where she should go or what she should do. Rosemary thinks Guy and the coven may be responsible for Hutch’s death as well. She goes to read the witch craft book again, only to find Guy had thrown it away because he thinks it was upsetting her. So she packs a bag and goes to see her doctor. In the waiting room, Rosemary gets talking to the receptionist, who notices the lack of “tannis root” stink around Rosemary. The woman then comments that the doctor occasionally smells like it as well, and Rosemary realizes Dr. Sapirestein is in on it too. She leaves without seeing the doctor and calls Dr. Hill, insisting on meeting with him to discuss what’s been unfolding and why she needs him to deliver her baby. He agrees and meets her at his office. Rosemary tells her the whole story, and Dr. Hill reassure her and tells her not to worry, he will get everything in order at the hospital and that she should rest. Dr. Hill comes back later with Guy and Dr. Sapirestein who take Rosemary back to the Bramford. There, she escapes from them and hurries up to her apartment. They get in and hold her down, ready to give her a sedative when they realize she’s going into labor. The whole coven is there as the baby is being delivered, and Rosemary faints. When she comes to, they tell her she’s lost the baby. A member of the coven sits with her each day, and they give her pills that keep her docile. Rosemary grieves the loss of her baby and pumps the milk she is still producing, and hands the milk over to coven members. Then one day, she hears a baby crying. Rosemary asks a coven member about it, who replies that there is a young couple who just moved in on the next floor up with a baby. Rosemary doesn’t believe this and suspects her baby is still alive. She pretends to continue taking the pills, but hides them away instead, and one day she drugs the coven member watching her, goes to the kitchen to get a knife, and finds her way into the Castevet’s apartment through a hidden doorway in the linen closet. She’s surprised to find Guy in the Castevet’s apartment, as well as Minnie and Roman themselves. Rosemary goes to the bassinet in the room, threatening to kill any one who tried any thing. There she looks upon an adorable chubby face. Then the baby opens his eyes, they’re completely yellow with a long black slit running down the center. Rosemary is startled and screams at the coven, demanding to know what they did to her baby. They tell her they did nothing and that the baby has his father’s eyes. They explain that the father of the baby is satan himself. Guy tells Rosemary that he did it for them, and that in a few years they’d be living in Beverly Hills with a bunch of kids running around; she spits at him. The coven calms Rosemary, and they allow her to rock the baby’s bassinet. She fantasizes about throwing the baby out the window and jumping after herself, but then decides that the baby can’t be all bad, he is, after all, half her. She demands the baby’s name be “Andrew” rather than the already chosen “Adrien”, and the coven allows it. The story closes on Rosemary talking lovingly to the baby as the coven suggests she stick around to mother the child.

 

Overall, I found this story intriguing. It was an easy read as well. However, throughout the story, I can’t help but wonder why Rosemary didn’t connect the dots earlier. I found it apparent that something strange was going on, and in similar circumstances, I think I would have done things differently, though how, I can’t quite say.

The thing that makes this story so powerful, emotionally, is not only the terror and the mounting feeling that something is wrong, it’s also the desire and need that Rosemary feels to have a child, and the fact that it is in jeopardy. I think another reason this story hits home is because Rosemary is betrayed, not only by her friends, but by her husband who is supposed to protect her and help her and love her unconditionally. I wonder, was it just the fame that convinced Guy to do something so terrible to Rosemary, or were there other factors, such as problems in their relationship? What would it take for someone else to endorse betrayal of that level? The worst part about what Guy did, to me at least, is beyond the hurt Rosemary must feel, it’s about trust, and she trusted him throughout most of the story. I wonder, how is it possible to hurt someone you love so much?

The part of the story I found most frightening, was when the baby was growing inside Rosemary, and the side affects were not normal. I kept wondering if that possibly inhuman baby would irreversibly damage her insides, and what would happen during delivery. The part of the whole pregnancy that surprised me the most, was Rosemary’s craving for raw meat, and the fact that she gave in to it. Raw meat plays host to all sorts of parasites and illness, and I’m honestly surprised that Rosemary would expose her child to it. I also cannot understand why Rosemary didn’t object more to Minnie’s shakes and take the pills any way. I mean, this story takes place in the ’60’s, it’s not before the dawn of medical treatment, so why would Rosemary go against the norm?

I think most of my problems with this story all lead back to Rosemary being naive. She seems to take what people tell her to heart, and believe them totally. For example, Dr. Sapirestein makes me leery throughout the story, from the time his name is first introduced untill I was thinking, “I told you so,” when Rosemary found that he occasionally smelled of “tannis root”. I can’t help wondering why a doctor would tell a pregnant woman it’s perfectly fine to eat raw meat, as well as him being leery of the pharmaceutical industry, and I wonder as well, how Rosemary cannot see this. She trusts him enough to go to him with her concerns about Roman, at which point I kept wanting to scream at her, “BAD IDEA!” Rosemary also trusts to go to him when she believes that his friends (I mean, come on, duh!) and her husband are against her, even though she finally realizes she’s made a mistake in who can be trusted.

Overall, I thought this story was interesting enough, but I had a hard time with the characters. I find Rosemary hard to identify with, which is not great considering I’m a young woman wanting to have children as well. Other characters, I felt, were better done, such as Guy, the traitorous husband, and Minnie, the mock-concerned next door neighbor. I wonder, though, if this book had been written recently, would it be easier for me as a reader to connect with the main character. Throughout the book, I sympathized with Rosemary, but I felt that she didn’t react properly to some instances.

However, I’d like to focus on the little things. By this I mean the parts where the reader can tell something that’s not quite right is going on, but Rosemary seems not to notice or easily able to dismiss it as nothing. These are the parts that make the story, the parts that give it the sense of foreboding and make it a somewhat frightening story. I tried to detail as many as I could without being tedious in the overview, but I’m not sure I included enough. Closer to the beginning, there is the whole “Terry” thing, and that Rosemary notices the Castevet’s food doesn’t taste quite right as well as her noticing that there were bare spots on their walls where it looked like there should be pictures hanging. But even before that, when she and Guy are looking at the apartment for the first time, there is a large wardrobe/closet type piece of furniture pushed up against a linen closet, and it is easily dismissed as the previous tenant, an elderly woman, becoming senile, yet the reader senses there’s more to it. These “little things” build up throughout the story, and I’d found that they were peppered in perfectly. When something happens and we know that there has to be more to why, it adds to our unrest and holds us, pushing us to read on, since we all want to know the answers to these little mysteries. We feel this mounting trepidation for Rosemary, even though she seems blind to it herself.

Another factor of the story I thought was done quite well was the questioning of Rosemary’s sanity. There are a few points she brings up that don’t make sense, and when she does, others dismiss it and tell her there’s nothing to worry about. Rosemary never finds any solid proof (until the very end) that what she believes is going on is actually happening, this makes the reader question her sanity, as well as Rosemary herself. Throughout the end when she’s become nearly certain that there is a plot against her, Rosemary has nothing more than a lot of conjecture and some mild circumstantial evidence. As the reader, we wonder if there is really nothing going on, and if she’s imagining it all, or connecting things that are purely coincidence.

It’s funny how the subjects of the two paragraphs above work against each other throughout the novel, creating this delightful push and pull, a back and forth feeling as to where we think the story is heading. It does its job quite well and was able to hold my interest, despite the disconnect I felt regarding the main character. Overall, I think this story easily achieves the “Thriller” category, and only crosses into “Horror” because of the supernatural and sci-fi elements.

Now let’s focus on the supernatural and sci-fi elements. They are few and far between, but the supernatural elements in this story are powerful. One example being that Rosemary learns in the end that she actually had sexual relations with the devil. This packs a strong emotional wallop, and leaves us feeling not only sorry for Rosemary, but mildly disgusted as well. There is also the death of Hutch, which we don’t know for sure is supernatural, but we are pretty damn sure once he’s passed, that it has something to do with witch craft since he died trying to get a book on the subject to Rosemary. When Donald Bumgart suddenly goes blind, we are also left feeling that there was something strange about it, but our suspicions are unconfirmed until Rosemary reaches the realization herself. I love how these supernatural events can easily be dismissed as coincidence or a strange dream, only to be confirmed as truth in the end. It works well to hold our interest and keep us reading. Also, by each of the supernatural events being something terrible, we feel a sense of sympathy, and loss especially in the case of Hutch’s coma and death since he and Rosemary were so close.

Now for the ending. I have to say that I’m not thrilled with the ending. It’s one of those oddly ambiguous endings that leave us feeling that maybe things have been resolved, but maybe they haven’t. The problem I have is that I’m left with so many questions. What happens to Rosemary and Guy’s marriage? Does Rosemary join the coven? Will the child grow up to be evil? Will Rosemary stick around to care for the baby? What about the coven? What happens with their plans, since surely they have a destiny in mind for the baby? Will Rosemary steal her baby from them? Would she leave without the child, never to look back? It doesn’t help that Rosemary is a somewhat unpredictable character, I felt. It seemed to me that throughout the story, I kept thinking, “I know what she’ll do now,” and she didn’t do it. Yet, I understand why the author chose to end the story there. When you pass that point in the story, there are so many questions raised, but when it’s ended there, we know nothing else will be answered, and it is, quite simply, what it is: the end of the story.

Overall I enjoyed the book. Though, knowing what was coming, I found the beginning somewhat slow to build. I’d give the book a three out of five, but I might add another star simply because of easy readability. The language in the book is simple, almost reminiscent of a youth novel geared towards a twelve-year-old’s reading level, though the situations make it an adult book. However, I do enjoy a challenge, as far as vocabulary goes, so I guess I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the reading level.

And I did it again. I rambled on in a ridiculously long post. I’m starting to think I should giveaway a prize for the first person who can post a comment pertaining to the story and discussion points in this post (because as previously mentioned, if you read all of this, you should get a medal), but as of yet, I have no prizes. If I do get that going, I’ll let you all know so that you can have a chance to win—uh, something, I’m not sure what yet.

Have you read this book? Share any thoughts or comments on it, please. Let me know what you thought about the “little things”, the suspense, the supernatural elements, the characters, or the story overall. How did you feel about the ending? What do you think of how Rosemary reacted to finding everyone around her was plotting against her?

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