A stunning first novel that probes the mysteries of sex, gender, and love with insight and subtlety
Inspired by the true story of Danish painter Einar Wegener and his California-born wife, this tender portrait of a marriage asks: What do you do when someone you love wants to change? It starts with a question, a simple favor asked of a husband by his wife on an afternoon chilled by the Baltic wind while both are painting in their studio. Her portrait model has canceled, and would he mind slipping into a pair of women’s shoes and stockings for a few moments so she can finish the painting on time. “Of course,” he answers. “Anything at all.” With that, one of the most passionate and unusual love stories of the twentieth century begins.
Identity, unwavering love, artistic, beautiful, lyrical, transcendental, are a few words that spring to mind as I reflect upon The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff, which is an exquisitely written novel with delicate and beautiful prose. The reader is introduced to Greta and Einar Wegener, both painters yet with differing subjects, Greta paints portraits and Einar paints landscapes, yet each is devoted to supporting the other’s works, dreams and desires. In 1925 Greta needed Einar to don a pair of hose and shoes to finish a portrait, since Anna had canceled yet again, and during this session Lili was born. Ebershoff’s novel is very loosely based on the first transgender surgery performed in 1931 on artist Einar Wegener who became known as Lili Elbe. Through a series of flashbacks the reader learns more about Greta and Einar prior to their meeting and marriage, delving deeper into Einar’s childhood and Greta’s previous marriage. The Danish Girl is a deeply touching and emotional look at how far people are willing to go for those they love. The novel is written with exceptional attention to detail allowing the reader to view Copenhagen, Paris, and Dresden through the eyes of two painters. Greta’s unconditional love for her husband as well as for Lili shine through as does the understanding and compassion shown in their friends, Anna, Hans, and Greta’s brother Carlisle. There is so much to praise in this book, yet I am awed at how well Ebershoff portryed Greta’s and Einar’s paintings mirroring their lives and how their paintings and style changed as they did. The Danish Girl is a beautifully written narrative of love that transcends all boundaries. I highly recommend this novel to any adult and think it would make a remarkable discussion group choice.
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I received a complimentary copy of The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff from TLC Book Tours to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the novel. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.