Breath and Bones [NOOK Book]


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, ...
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Breath and Bones

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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 stimulation (as treatment for consumption) into a comic novel that gallops across the American west.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This steamy historical novel Cokal's second, after Mirabilis chronicles the adventures sexual and otherwise of its consumptive, red-haired heroine, Famke, from her childhood in a late 19th-century Copenhagen orphanage to her fate in the American Wild West. Famke's sensuality blooms early, and she graduates from Sapphic encounters at the convent orphanage to a passionate relationship at the age of 17, as model, muse and lover to Albert Castle, a young English Pre-Raphaelite painter. Albert renders her as the mythical Nimue and leaves Copenhagen with his masterpiece to seek his fortune. She follows him to America by marrying a polygamous Mormon, Heber Goodhouse, headed to Utah. From Utah, Famke makes her way to Colorado, where, disguised as the itinerant artist's young brother to avoid sexual solicitations, she discovers Albert's artwork in brothels but not the artist himself. Discouraged and weak with tuberculosis, she is taken in by a wealthy, eccentric inventor in Hygeia Springs, Calif., who treats her consumption with a proto-vibrator. His mistaken suspicion of her involvement with a violent labor movement called the Dynamite Gang necessitates her escape once again. A series of incredible coincidences lead to her reunion with Albert and an explosive climax. This labyrinthine, literary bodice-ripper may titillate readers willing to follow the improbable plot twists and turns. Agent, Liv Blumer. 8-city author tour. May Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this latest from Cokal Mirabilis, Famke Summerfugl is a tubercular Danish woman of uncommon beauty and fiery red hair-the perfect muse, model, and lover for mediocre English artist Albert Castle. Albert leaves Denmark to pursue fame and fortune in America, leaving Famke behind. When she doesn't hear from him, Famke sets out across the sea and through the American West to find him. Along the way, she picks up clues, mostly paintings Albert has left behind in houses of ill repute, even as her health deteriorates. It turns out that Famke is a "wanted woman"-by the Mormon she married to get across the ocean; a sleazy newspaper man convinced that she is a notorious criminal; the mysterious Edouard, who believes he can cure her consumption; and a young man she knew at the orphanage. This riveting piece of historical fiction brings to life the beauty and depravity of the West as well as the spirit of a doomed young woman in her dubious pursuit of love. Recommended for public libraries.-Jyna Scheeren, Manatee Central Lib., Bradenton, FL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another offbeat adventure from Cokal (Mirabilis, 2001), who sends a consumptive but dauntless Danish teenager across 1880s America in search of her lover. Abandoned in infancy and raised by nuns, Famke acquires little from the convent beside tuberculosis and a well-deserved reputation as a wild child. When the devoted Sister Birgit finds her work on a farm, she prefers to run off to Copenhagen with an English painter and enjoy life as his model/mistress. Albert is as mediocre in bed as he is at the easel, but Famke is nonetheless heartbroken when he goes home to pursue artistic fame. After she learns he's moved on to the States, Famke pretends to convert to Mormonism so that an American missionary will finance her passage there. She's even willing to become Heber Goodhouse's polygamous third wife, since he'll take her to Utah and she's read that Albert is heading west. Coughing all the way, often wearing men's clothes, she follows Albert's trail from whorehouse to whorehouse in Colorado, financing her travels by reworking his paintings of the establishments' employees to reflect changes in personnel. She finally ends up in California at the Hygeia Springs Institute for Phthisis. Its wealthy founder Edouard promises to cure her TB through electrical treatments that certainly are pleasurable (think: giant vibrator) but do not assuage Famke's longing for Albert. The lovers are finally reunited at San Francisco's Thalia Festival House, where Famke is one of the "Living Waxworks" that enable the promoter to show near-naked women without getting arrested. The humor here is very dark, the descriptions of bodily afflictions baroque: Don't expect a happy ending. But Cokal gives her swashbucklingheroine a spectacular send-off appropriate to her portrait of 19th-century America as a brutal but oddly liberating society, and the well-rendered secondary characters achieve slightly more satisfying ends. Not quite as thought-provoking as the author's debut novel, but more fun-in a kinky sort of way. An intriguing sophomore effort from a writer who definitely has her own unique voice.
From the Publisher

“Cokal’s storytelling blends the morbid and the titillating with imaginative exuberance....
the story of Famke's quest...brings to mind the question Martin Amis asked of 'Lolita': how was it possible to limit her adventures to "this 300-page blue streak -- to something so embarrassingly funny, so unstoppably inspired, so impossibly racy?" ”—THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

“Masterful. Cokal draws the reader in to a literate experience that’s also a gripping tale in the tradition of great picaresque novels like Moll Flanders and Don Quixote.”—Southwest Book Views

“It’s almost impossible not to be amused, then intrigued and finally impressed with the heroine of Susann Cokal’s new novel, Breath and Bones….Cokal has a special gift for starting many of her chapters with lines that zing. Actually, each begins with some sort of quoted matter, but it is Cokal’s own prose that arrests….At various points in its narrative, Breath and Bones elicits laughter, empathy, shock. But Cokal pulls our strings while maintaining a consistent, authoritative voice; she is sure of herself without being arrogant or chilly. Essentially, this is a book about art, flesh and spirit — and Cokal delves into all three areas of her inquiry with wit but also heart.”—John Mark Eberhart, The Kansas City Star

"The story is a romp, in the tradition of Tom Jones, and a quinta-sensual novel with characters forever circling prey....That Cokal makes all this work is a testament to her research...[and] to her balance of the erotic with the esoteric...”—Pages Magazine

“Cokal's rich language and ability to craft an intriguing tale and heroine will pull readers along as they hope for the heroine's happiness.”
—The Rocky Mountain News


“Another offbeat adventure from Cokal (Mirabilis, 2001), who sends a consumptive but dauntless Danish teenager across 1880s America in search of her lover…fun-in a kinky sort of way. An intriguing sophomore effort from a writer who definitely has her own unique voice.”--Kirkus Reviews

“…within it lies a historical richness that is Cokal’s greatest strength, and which she used just as well in her first novel, MIRABILIS….[This] was an exciting time to be in America, with all its gritty splendor, and Cokal depicts it with authority and obvious pleasure.”—

“This steamy historical novel (Cokal's second, after Mirabilis) chronicles the adventures-sexual and otherwise-of its consumptive, red-haired heroine, Famke, from her childhood in a late 19th-century Copenhagen orphanage to her fate in the American Wild West. [A] …literary bodice-ripper…”—Publishers Weekly
“It's quite a trick, lassoing the literary bounty of historical fiction, the sheer oddness of what people did and the words they used, and lashing it tight to a clever, irreverent, a la page voice. Susann Cokal has pulled that off in her second novel, Breath and Bones. Her language is fresh. It's bawdy. It's laugh-out-loud funny in parts. And if it's historically astute, do we care? This is fiction for fun.”—The Durango Herald

“A poetic, comic, tragic, and surreal story of art, love, and searching.”—Richmond Magazine

“Inventive…One might think the disparate elements in Susann Cokal's "Breath and Bones" incapable of being woven into whole cloth, but weave them she does with the results neatly balanced between the ridiculous and the engaging.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune

“As a story, Breath and Bones is definitely unique. As wordsmith, Ms. Cokal is a standout. I literally devoured this book, enticed by her skill to keep reading from first page to last…Throughout, Ms. Cokal blends fascinating characters and locations, humor and history into a splendid tale of an amazing woman and her travels. And she accomplishes the telling of her story in grand style.”—The Midwest Book Review

Susann Cokal’s romping novel explores connections between art and sexuality through the eyes of an orphaned Danish girl, Famke, whose greatest pleasure in life is to serve as a model (and lover) for English painter Albert Castle. Famke becomes addicted not only to being looked at, but also to looking at images of herself, wholeheartedly embracing her role as sexual and artistic object….Throughout the novel she rejects the notion that sexuality is a matter for shame rather than a source of inspiration…[A] lovely adventure—exactly the kind of novel Famke herself would have relished.—

“[L]usty, entertaining reading.”—

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781936071142
  • Publisher: Unbridled Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/2006
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,308,222
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Susann Cokal is the author of the previous novel Mirabilis. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Great reading experience

    In the latter half of the nineteenth century in Denmark, Famke was raised by nuns who cannot deal with the precocious rowdy child. Finally the sisters find her work when she was a teen on a farm. Toiling on a farm seems too boring so Famke takes off for Copenhagen........ She moves in with an untalented English painter Albert and earns a living as a model and his lover though he performs worse in bed than he does with a brush. Failing in Europe, Albert returns to the States leaving his mistress behind. Missing him, Famke follows Albert across the Atlantic though to pay passage she ¿converts¿ to Mormonism so that a missionary will pay her ocean voyage tab even if that means becoming the third living wife. Landing in America, her trek continues cross country while her tuberculosis that she caught in the monastery worsens until she reaches the Hygeia Springs Institute for Phthisis in California where they promise a cure. The electrical treatments provide sensual pleasure much greater than Albert ever did, but the TB remains as strong as ever. Still following her ex, she catches up to him in San Francisco, but will they reunite................. This is an oddly amusing but extremely dark look at the late nineteenth century as seen mostly through the eyes of a delightful hedonist protagonist. The strong cast provides a different perspective to the 1880s in Denmark and the United States then the audience normally sees, but it is fabulous Famke as a female Tom Jones (the novel not the singer) who holds the tale together. Susann Cokal is an author worth following with this strong showing and her previous powerhouse (see MIRABILIS)................ Harriet Klausner

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