BREATH AND BONES
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.
$15.95 | Fiction Trade Paperback | 6x9 | 400 pages
ISBN: 1-932961-15-1 | Carton Quantity: 24
Famke was not a virtuous woman when she met Albert Castle. According to the Catholic precepts by which she’d been raised, she was no longer truly virginal, as she confessed to him in a bedtime conversation. Few orphan girls, even those raised by the good sisters of the Convent of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, could lay claim to that desirable state once they entered the wider world—and why should they bother to hold on to something that would be taken from them once they’d passed communion and were placed in service with some family inevitably headed by a prurient husband, a curious son, or a querulous grandfather who would have his way?
“Darling, you’re so fierce,” Albert said as he squeezed her.
“It is a fierce world,” she said. “Overhovedet, especially, for a girl.”
Besides, immured in her orphanage, Famke had found the idea of sin exciting. It offered the possibility of something other than what she had, something that must be at least pleasant, if not delicious, since the straight-backed nuns who had married Christ were so vehemently against it.
So Famke had taken sin into her own hands. The boys on the other side of the orphanage were just as curious as she, and intrigued by her interest. She courted them first through a crack in the wall separating boys’ and girls’ dormitories. This was during the exercise period, when the children were encouraged to enjoy fresh air and wholesome movement, trotting up and down two barren courtyards, occasionally playing desultory games of tag or statue around the lone elder tree in each one. Famke would lean into her wall and see an eye, almost always blue, peering back at her through the rubble and leaves. They would talk, whispering arrangements for rendezvous that, under the nuns’ watchful glare, never came to pass. Once, Famke wormed her thin hand along the crack, and the boy on the other side (a Mogens, she believed, or maybe a Viggo—there were so many of both, arriving with those un-Catholic names pinned to their diapers so the good nuns felt bound to retain them) managed to reach just far enough in to touch the tip of one finger. The contact gave her a thrill she’d never known before, and for a good many months it was what she thought sin was, this furtive touch within a wall.