It’s so stressful to read this book knowing how it all turns out! It is brilliant though and identical as far as I can see to Polanski’s (boo!) 1968 movie adaptation (which I reviewed here). Continue reading
The best thing about the new year is signing up to a new Goodreads Reading Challenge. So far, over the last few, I have failed to complete a single year – or if I’ve got anywhere near I wouldn’t know as I’ve failed to log the books I’ve read.
There’s not much to the rules of the challenge to be honest. You input how many books you want to read that year and then, as you complete each one, you check them off on the GR app. It’s quite addictive, at least in the first couple of months as you rack ’em up and see you percentage achieved rise (I’m currently on 12% with six out of 50 books done).
Anyway, I love to read and I love to buy books even though I shouldn’t and I’ve got some real peaches in the immediate pile (anyone else got piles in order of importance?). Here are some of the ones I’m most excited for:
Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
I mean, what a title. It’s also meant to be an absolute belter so bring it on!
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
I’m obsessed with this cover and even more intrigued by the subject matter. I think this is definitely next in line for me.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature.
Men without Women: Stories by Haruki Murakami
I’ve always been a big fan of Murakami but somewhere along the line I read too much of his work and needed to take a long break. I’m back in the game now after I read his little short Birthday Girl. There’s just something about his prose.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
A classic I’ve not yet read though I’ve devoured the film many times and adore it (boo Polanski). Cannot wait to dip into this deeply unsettling world again.
Help by Simon Amstell
I love Simon Amstell and find him very clever and funny. Darren and I have seen him a couple of times doing stand-up and that’s was enough to make me snatch this up as soon as I saw it.
From a complicated childhood in Essex to an Ayahuasca-led epiphany in the Amazon rainforest, this story will make you laugh, cry and then feel happier than you’ve ever been.
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
I’m currently reading this bad boy and it’s started well with a definite The Woman in Black flavour (which is mentioned on the cover with a bi-line by Susan Hill). As far as I’m concerned you can’t lose with Gothic literature but I just hope this is good as I suspect it’s going to be.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger by Lee Israel
I got the movie tie-in novel after seeing the very, very good movie adaptation on Monday night (review to follow). I loved Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel and frankly, I wanted more as soon as the credits rolled. So this is going to be a lot of fun. What an ingenious idea for a scam though.
Lee Israel’s hilarious and shocking memoir of the astonishing caper she carried on for almost two years when she forged and sold more than three hundred letters by such literary notables as Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber, Noel Coward, and many others.
Adèle by Leïla Slimani
Slimani’s Lullaby (know as The Perfect Nanny in some countries) was dynamite. In turn beautiful, odd and shocking, it tells the story of how the perfect nanny came to murder the young children in her care. Adèle centers around a seemingly perfect wife, mother and career woman (of the same name) who leads a very secret double life.
I might have to cancel the rest of the month so I can get fully immersed. I will be reviewing as I go too so watch this space.
What are you reading?
No preamble on this week’s pick (which is mine), only to say – fookin’ hell, I think I might be all horrored out for a few days.
Whether you consider this horror or not is up to you, I guess it’s technically a psychological thriller but who even cares, eh? The result is the same.
The Tenant (1976)
IMDB Synopsis: A bureaucrat rents a Paris apartment where he finds himself drawn into a rabbit hole of dangerous paranoia.
Trelkovsky, a well-mannered gentleman type, learns of a free apartment in a run down apartment block in Paris. On viewing the flat he gets out of the surly Concierge (Winters) that the previous tenant threw herself from the balcony. Ooooooooh!
Not yet dead, Simone Choule (Dominque Poulange), an Egypologist, is in hospital and not doing so well. Piqued by curiosity and perhaps to check that she won’t suddenly get better and need her apartment back, Trelkovsky goes to visit her. At her bedside, he meets Simone’s friend Stella who is visibly shaken by the accident, but also fucking fabulous.
When Simone sees them both she freaks out and unleashes an almighty howl. This emotionally derails Stella so T (fuck typing his name out every single time) does what any normal man would do in the same situation: takes her to see Enter the Dragon and gropes her in the back of the cinema while a pervert watches them. Afterwards, they go their separate ways.
Simone dies in the night, freeing up the apartment and T moves in. He’s pretty stoked to begin with but becomes a little perturbed when he finds one of Simone’s dresses in the wardrobe. In fact, the apartment is still dotted with feminine knickknacks that would freak me the fuck out.
Putting it to the back of his mind, T throws a little soiree for his friends and gets into trouble with some of his neighbours. From there things take a sour turn as he is blamed for all sorts of behaviours that aren’t his fault – being noisy, having girls over, playing Britney Spears too loud.
One night his upper neighbour and her disabled daughter come knocking to ask him if he’s lodged a complaint against them. He says no. The neighbour then makes reference to the old woman above, saying she is evil and obviously the one doing the complaining. I got a bit confused here because they all seemed to have the same names.
T himself is later asked to sign a petition against the nice neighbour but refuses as she’s done nothing to bother him. This further alienates him from the other residents. The residents are kind of dicks. He also starts to get the feeling that things are very much not cool around the block. He notices lots of oddity, including his fellow tenants standing motionless in the communal loo, which he can see right into from his window (lucky boy).
NB: Little aside here, things go nuts plot wise from hereonin.
T starts to lose his mind, hallucinating and imagining bizarre scenarios – such as an audience in the courtyard below, cheering him on, and a weird court jester scene. He finds hieroglyphics in the toilet which are a reference to Simone’s work. He also starts cross-dressing in Simone’s make-up and clothes, buys a wig to complete the look and rocks it pretty hard TBF. He starts to believe that his fellow tenants are trying to turn him into Simone and want him kill himself like she did.
T meets up with Stella again and they look like they’re going to get it on but paranoia and some heavy introspection stops play. He does later turn to Stella for comfort and support but whether or not she comes through is for you to find out.
I don’t want to spoil the entire plot, there’s a lot of madness all round and poor T is not having a cool time. He goes to the park and slaps a strangers kid which shouldn’t have made me smile, but it did. Don’t slap kids people, it’s very wrong. Even if they are whiney little shits in unflattering anoraks.
I’m going to park up here so you find out the ending for yourselves but let’s get to a few questions in time-honoured tradition, yes?
Are the tenants really trying to drive our friend to suicide? Will they succeed and honestly, why go to all that trouble? Who can Trelkovsky trust?
And what the fuckity fuck is going on?
Um. Look I get that not everything has to be coherent. This is Polanski and he does suspense bloody well, I’ll give him that. I like the overall tone of the film, loved the setting, loved some of the characters but the plot line itself is messy AF. Did I understand it? Not really.
There’s lots of debate about what it all means. Kafka-esque is term thrown around a lot. Sadly the only Kafka I’ve ever read is The Metamorphosis which doesn’t really help me here (or does it?). We’re possibly talking about an evil building pushing its inhabitants to turn on the new guy and in the process turn him mad but I think there’s a split personality scenario in there too. Guess it’s up to the viewer to determine for themselves and I like that.
This I don’t feel holds up anywhere as well as Rosemary’s Baby (which Jill and I previously reviewed). It’s no Bitter Moon (1992) or Frantic (1988) either. Really it’s an intriguing way to spend a couple of hours but it won’t really stay with you or change your life in any way.
My Rating: 2.5/5. Weird. But kind of compelling.
Would my beloved like to evict this one or would she let it live? Find out here.
See Halloween Month off with a bang, I thought. Let’s watch a classic and see how it stands up in today’s modern landscape, I thought. Well, that was about all the thought I put into this week’s choice. I mean, it was this or Halloween (1978) and the latter seemed too obvious. Plus, I wouldn’t want to slag off that masterpiece, I’m sure on close examination it would be flawless (lol).
Anyway, this made the grade because I’ve only seen it once, a long ago but remember being blown away by the interiors and gripped by the unsteady hand of paranoia throughout. It reminds me of the films I fell in love with decades ago, when I got my first TV set in my bedroom. My self-education, if you will.
I’ll let you know my thoughts below.
As always *spoilers*
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
IMDB Synopsis: A young couple move into an apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins to control her life.
Shiny happy couple, Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse fall in love with an impossibly gorgeous apartment in downtown NYC and hastily slap their deposit down before really looking into it like most normal people would. Guy is an actor (though I’m not sure what he’s been in, Rosemary, any idea?), while Ro is a professional waif and cushion fluffer.
They’re very sweet and in love, with their whole future ahead of them – this is going to be a happy ending right? Riiiiiiight. I can promise you that someone will be happy by the time the credits roll but that’s all I’m giving you.
Just before they move in, their lovely friend Hutch (Maurice Evans) tells them the bloody history of the building, which includes witchcraft and cannibalism. This doesn’t phase the couple though and they move in. There’s even a redecorating montage which I live for, I really do.
While Guy pops off on auditions and films commercials, Rosemary makes sure the apartment is perfect. She greets her husband with a pint of beer and plate of sandwiches on his return every night (!) and they make love with good frequency. One evening Rosemary meets her neighbour, Terry (Victoria Vetri) who stays with the Castevet’s on the 7th floor (which is the same floor as the Woodhouse’s and right next door).
Terry tells Ro the story of how the Castevet’s took her in off the streets and treat her as the daughter they never had. Terry shows off a pongy lucky charm she wears around her neck, which Ro admires/turns her nose up at in equal measure. The girls never quite get to cement their new friendship however, as a few days later the Woodhouse’s return to their building to find Terry has thrown herself from the window and is pretty fucking dead.
(There’s claret everywhere and I have to say the first time in a film where I remember seeing this. Usually when someone jumps off a building all you get is a delicate pool of the red stuff by their head. In this scene it is all over the surrounding cars, sidewalk, road, in the cops hair, etc).
It’s over Terry’s broken corpse that we, and the Woodhouses, first meet the Castevets, Minnie and Roman (Sidney Blackmer). They are gloriously oddball and Minnie rocks the exact aesthetic I intend to in 30 years time (20). From this evening on the Woodhouses can’t shake the Castevets despite this being the very thing they had hoped to avoid.
Guy seems more taken with the new friendship than Rosemary is, spending hours in Roman’s company talking about whatever it is they talk about, I forget. Meanwhile, Minnie is a domineering so-and-so who drops in unexpectedly all the fucking time (told you this was a HORROR), sometimes dragging her mate, Laura Louise (Patsy Kelly) with her. Minnie also gives Rosemary the exact same ‘Good Luck’ pendant that Terry wore. Oooooh!
Rosemary quickly begins to back away from her neighbours and is a little baffled by the fact Guy doesn’t feel the same. However, they don’t really have the time to discuss it as they decide to start trying for a baby. From here Guy takes control of Rosemary’s menstrual cycle and maps the prime days for baby making, keeps track of her period and basically treats her like a prize cow.
One night early into Project Baby, Rosemary passes out after dinner (moral of story: if your neighbour drops off chocolate mousse and it tastes chalky, don’t eat it, even if your husband bullies you into it). While out cold, Ro has some disturbing dreams (that are pretty much exactly the same as the ones I have most nights but with more nudity) and when she wakes up, she’s covered in scratches. Guy admits that he hadn’t wanted to miss ‘Baby Night’ so had gone right ahead without her. Presumably while Blurred Lines played softly in the background.
(I’m sorry but that’s just horrific, right there. Fuck you, Guy. FUCK YOU.)
This review is going to go on forever if I don’t break it down for you (the movie is over 2 hours long), but the result of Baby Night is that Rosemary falls preggo. To celebrate she visits Vidal Sassoon and has a pixie cut. Guy is very rude about her new look and one can only assume it’s because she’s asserted some independence, a big no-no in this marriage apparently.
Alarm bells are ringing even before we get a whiff of Satanism but Ro is so sick in her first stages of pregnancy that she is naturally compliant. This makes it easy for the Castevets to railroad her into seeing their doctor and drinking the herbal goodies Minnie rustles up on his recommendation.
One afternoon, Hutch pops round and is shocked to the core at how rubbish Rosemary looks (she does look bad, having lost heaps of weight from her already gazelle-like frame). By chance Hutch meets Roman Castevets and senses something fishy. He arranges to meet Rosemary in the city a day later to tell her something.
Hutch never makes it though as he falls into a sudden coma (from which he never wakens, dying shortly afterwards). Ro is devastated of course, while Guy doesn’t seem all that bothered.
Just as Rosemary is about to get a second opinion on all the pain she’s been suffering so far in her pregnancy (as advised by her female friends who tell her it is definitely not normal), the pain shifts and she starts to glow. Up to that point she’d started to throw away Minnie’s secret pregnancy milkshakes believing them to be poisoned.
Let’s cut to the chase here and say at Hutch’s funeral, one of Hutch’s friends passes on a book about witchcraft with some clues underlined inside. This is what Hutch had wanted to tell Ro and she gradually works out that Roman is the son of a very evil man witch who’d resided in the building a long time before, and had a high old time doing the Devil’s work.
After this, Rosemary realises that all her paranoia has weight and she’s less pliable. She seeks assistance from a second doctor who lets her down spectacularly (fucker) and ends up being held hostage by her so-called husband and Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy) for the remainder of her pregnancy, which tragically results in a still birth.
Or does it?
I’m parking this up here. But not before I ask a few questions, obvs.
So… what will become of Rosemary and, of course, her wee baby? Will Guy Woodhouse come through for his wife in the end and what’s in this plot for him? Why didn’t Rosemary just tell those horrible Castevets to butt out?
Should I have a pixie cut myself? And finally, is this really just a cautionary tale about letting your neighbours get too close? *Deadlocks the front door and battens down all hatches, whatever those are*.
This is a great film, if excruciatingly long. Polanski knows how to spin a tale and he also knows how to build suspense so I can’t criticise him (for that, anyway). The whole film has an air of discomfort and paranoia builds quickly, despite Rosemary’s picture perfect lifestyle.
It helps I think that Mia Farrow is a living doll, all delicate lines and babydoll dresses, lending her a unique fragility. I just wanted her to be happy really. I also watched this movie and imagined that she got away and lived that happy life devoid of devil babies and annoying elderly companions. Alas.
There’s plenty here to take the piss out of, of course but as a classic, it’s pretty excellent. Maybe it’s not balls out scary but it takes you to a very creepy place and presents Rosemary’s situation as almost normal. For the most part the danger is very subtle and realistic. Too late does she even realise how far she’s fallen into this web of evil, and that the one person she should be able to count on has sold his soul (and their baby) for fame and fortune.
Which is a theme that would fit perfectly today, even more so perhaps in these reality TV obsessed times. I would recommend that this film needs to be seen, it’s an absolute classic up there with some of the greats, including a couple of my favourites, Don’t Look Now (1973) and The Omen (1976).
My Rating: 4.5/5