The Danish Girl is not my first experience with David Ebershoff. I read The 19th Wife about a year ago and was very underwhelmed; I thought it was good, but too long and I wasn’t convinced that the structure was doing it any favors. So I went into The Danish Girl with a little trepidation. I was expecting something similar, since like The 19th Wife, this is a historical novel based in fact about real people, but fictionalized to a point. I’m happy to report, however, that I much preferred with Ebershoff has done here with The Danish Girl.
This is the story of Einar Wegener and his wife Greta. Both are painters and one day when Greta’s model cancels, she asks her husband to put on the models stockings and shoes so she could finish the painting. Lili awakens in Einar and he feels much more complete and confident as a woman. It’s as if something had been missing his whole life and that something is Lili. I was so impressed by the way Ebershoff told this story – it was perfect. He was totally sensitive to Einar and Lili, uses all the correct pronouns and does not make this into a freak show. It is presented as something natural, though challenging. When Einar becomes the first man to go through gender reassignment surgery, the times he spends in the women’s clinic is some of the most sensitive writing.
There were many times reading this when it felt almost voyeuristic, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I really felt like I was reading about the real Greta and Lili/Einar, not the fictional. Like with The 19th Wife, I’m a little preoccupied with what is imagined an what is not. I’ve read a lot about the actual history since then and it’s just amazing how Lili and Greta changed the world they were living in.
Can I recommend this book? Absolutely. Will I be reading more of Ebershoff in the future? Wouldn’t miss it. I’m also really excited for the movie that’s coming out about this book with Nicole Kidman as Einar/Lili.
So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy of this book to review.