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Everybody over 40 knows what Rosemary’s Baby is about, just as they know Moby Dick is about a guy hunting a white whale.

creepy Victorian house on*Rosemary's Baby* book jacket

The difference between Ira Levin’s novel and Herman Melville’s is that there’s more to Moby Dick what everybody knows.


Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Random House, 1967, 245 p. 1967 bestseller # 7. My grade: C.

The story is about Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse, a young couple who move into a New York City apartment house noted for its Victorian architecture, its history of unsavory residents, and its unusually high rate of suicides.

Guy goes to work—he’s an actor who works mainly in commercials —and Rosemary putters at decorating, always with an eye to how the rooms can be rearranged to accommodate a baby.

After the inexplicable suicide of young woman who lived with the older couple next door, Rosemary and Guy get sucked into friendship with them.

Strange things start to happen.

Ira Levin, a master of the art of plotting, keeps the story moving briskly.

Levin doesn’t attempt to flesh out any of the characters beyond their initial descriptions. Nobody in the book learns anything or changes in any way.

The characters are dummies in an all-dummy cast which, in horror novels, may be the proper authorial pose.

Sympathy is wasted on dummies.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 

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Historical fiction doesn’t get any better than The Winthrop Woman, Anya Seton’s fascinating tale of Puritan America.

Elizabeth, the novel’s heroine, is niece and daughter-in-law to John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Widowed before she reaches America, Elizabeth marries Robert Feake, a strange, weak young man. The Feakes flee Massachusetts when Elizabeth is accused of witchcraft. They settle in Greenwich, buy land, and seek the protection of Dutch citizenship.

Unhinged by an Indian attack, Robert returns to England. In order to get a divorce so she can marry again, Elizabeth says she committed adultery. That lie almost does her in. Elizabeth and her third husband, William Hallet, barely escape being tried for both adultery and bigamy.

Beneath all the exciting stuff—passion, witchcraft, massacres, madness—is a fascinating picture of Puritans. Far from being united by faith, they bickered constantly among themselves over doctrinal points and united only in contempt for Catholics, Baptists, and other heathen.

Readers would never guess this story wasn’t invented, but the facts, dates, and circumstances are all true. Sexton said the story didn’t need any additions to make it exciting. (She’s right.) She even incorporated characters’ written words into the novel’s dialog.

Don’t miss The Winthrop Woman. It’s a great read.

The Winthrop Woman
by Anya Seton
Houghton, Mifflin 1958
586 pages
1958 Bestseller #8
My grade: A
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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