BookBrowse Reviews Breath and Bones by Susann Cokal

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Breath and Bones

A Novel

by Susann Cokal

Breath and Bones by Susann Cokal
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2005, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2006, 400 pages

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A bawdy romp in the style of a classic "bodice-ripper". Historical Fiction

From the book jacket: 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 her debut, Mirabilis, 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.

Comment: Breath and Bones is bawdy romp in the style of (probably more accurately described as satirizing) a classic "bodice-ripper" (complete with a heroine with "flaming red hair," "sapphire eyes," and "ruby lips"), and is great fun, so long as you don't make the mistake of taking it too seriously!  As Publishers Weekly puts it, "This labyrinthine, literary bodice-ripper may titillate readers willing to follow the improbable plot twists and turns", while Booklist describe it as "interesting without being completely absorbing." 

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, I lean towards the former opinion).   As always, you can decide for 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 I can find no record of it being used as a treatment for consumption - only as a treatment for "hysteria" in women.

This review is from the May 3, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.



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