Summary and book reviews of Breath and Bones by Susann Cokal

Breath and Bones

A Novel

By Susann Cokal

Breath and Bones
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: May 2005,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: May 2006,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

In 1884, Famke Summerfugl is ousted from her convent in Denmark for sensuousness and pulled from servitude by a second-rate painter named Albert Castle. Loving to be looked at, and able to stand perfectly still without shivering, Famke is the ideal artist's model.

When Albert takes his eight-foot masterpiece and leaves his model behind, Famke sets out over the Atlantic, convinced that she is his muse.

Following Mirabilis, her highly acclaimed debut, Susann Cokal blends pre-Raphaelite painting, American brothels, Utahan polygamists, a bit of cross-dressing, a dynamite-wielding labor movement, one California millionaire, and the invention of electrical sexual stimulation (as treatment for consumption) into a comic novel that gallops across the American West.

Breath and Bones

Susann Cokal

This little book treats of delicate subjects,
and has been sent to you only by request.
It is not intended for indiscriminate reading,
but for your own private information.



Dedication
To three generations of Familjeflickor

           Tove Rasmussen
                        Gunver Hasselbalch
                                   Krishna Cokal
                                             ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About the Book
In the late 1880s, Famke Summerfugl is a young orphan struggling to survive in a small Danish convent. Her budding youth and growing promiscuity soon force her out of the convent and into dreary farm life in a nearby village. A chance meeting with Albert Castle, a mediocre artist, offers her freedom from this rural life and a new home in the seductive lair of the artist’s studio. Now as his model and lover, Famke becomes the legend of his painting – the mythological nymph of his masterpiece. But her idyllic life ends abruptly when Albert’s wanderlust leads him to take passage on a ship bound for America, leaving Famke behind. Months go by and though she hasn’t heard from Albert, Famke is convinced that he...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Depending on your preferences you're likely to either think Breath and Bones is great, or a total waste of time (other than a few chapters in the middle where things lagged a little, we leaned towards the former opinion). As always, you can get a feel for the book yourself by reading a substantial excerpt exclusive to BookBrowse.

Incidentally, the use of "electrical sexual stimulation" as a medical treatment is well recorded right up to the 1920s - but we can find no record of it being used as a treatment for consumption - only as a treatment for "hysteria" in women.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Pages Magazine

The story is a romp, in the tradition of Tom Jones, and a quinta-sensual novel with characters forever circling prey.

Booklist - Kate Mediatore

Characters are realistic but not entirely likable in a tale that is interesting without being completely absorbing.

Publisher's Weekly

This labyrinthine, literary bodice-ripper may titillate readers willing to follow the improbable plot twists and turns.

Kirkus Reviews

Not quite as thought-provoking as the author's debut novel, but more fun - in a kinky sort of way.

Reader Reviews
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Beyond the Book

Susann Cokal has lived in various locations in the United States and in Poitiers, France, where she found the inspiration for Mirabilis, her first novel. She earned her Ph.D. in Creative Writing from SUNY-Binghamton and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UC-Berkeley.  She lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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