Breath & Bones
by Susann Cokal
Category: Fiction / Historical
384 pages; ISBN: 1932961062
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
Breath & Bones
Unbridled, May 2005, $23.95, 384 pp.
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).
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