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.
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).
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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