- The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
- Paperback: 270 pages
- Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics); Reprint edition (February 1, 2001)
- ISBN-13: 978-0140298482
Back-of-the-book blurb: 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.
She is Too Fond of Books’ review: I really enjoyed David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife, a novel which imagined some of the life of Ann Eliza Young, a wife of Brigham Young. Ebershoff wrote a solid novel which combined some historical figures and facts with his fictional narrative. After reading The 19th Wife I added Ebershoff’s other novels to my wish list: The Danish Girl, and Pasadena, as well as his collection of short fiction, The Rose City.
Although The Danish Girl was first published in 2001, it’s been getting more visibility lately due to the forthcoming movie starring Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron (yes! wow! Kudos to Ebershoff; this is one I’ll see at the movie theater, not wait for Netflix!).
I’m reviewing the book as part of his blog tour with TLC Book Tours, and I’m pleased to say, he’s done it again (or, rather, first, since this was his debut novel). Ebershoff blends some of the known history with his creative imagination as he weaves a love story about Einar Wegener, Greta Waub (his wife), and Lili Elbe (the woman Einar slowly becomes as time and time again he slips on those silk stockings).
Nuances of the relationship are revealed as Einar more often chooses to become Lili; he muses about his physical transformation and the way it fits with who he knows himself to be at heart:
It was the first time that Einar sensed how he was turning the world on its head by dressing as Lili. He could eliminate himself by pulling the camisole with the scallop-lace hem over his head. Einar could duck out of society by lifting his elbows and clasping the triple strand of Spanish pearls around his neck. He could comb his long soft hair around his face, and then tilt his head like an eager adolescent girl.
I loved the unique story, and the beautiful settings that Ebershoff painted with his words. I did feel distanced from the characters, not emotionally connected with them. However, the more I read, and the more I thought about my reaction to the novel, I realized that this may have been an intentional device the author employed. The subject is definitively a sensitive one, and perhaps, by creating that distance, Ebershoff has made the story palatable to a wider audience.
The significance of the true story of Einar Wegener and Lili Elbe is an important one, and Ebershoff’s novel is a wonderful introduction that piqued my curiosity. The notes in the back of the paperback edition indicate that “some of the basic events of Einar’s transformation are based on fact … but most of the novel is invented.” He points readers to websites and resources for further information. Ebershoff set out to write a love story; he certainly succeeded in his exploration of whom we love, why we love them, and what we do that may harness or harm that love.
For other thoughts on The Danish Wife, visit these stops on David Ebershoff’s tour … read the book and see the movie!:
- Monday, May 3rd: Peekin’ Between the Pages
- Tuesday, May 4th: Bermuda Onion
- Wednesday, May 5th: Lit and Life
- Thursday, May 6th: Rundpinne
- Friday, May 7th: Redlady’s Reading Room
- Monday, May 10th: Wordsmithonia
- Tuesday, May 11th: Book Addiction
- Wednesday, May 12th: Shooting Stars Mag
- Thursday, May 13th: The 3R’s Blog
- Monday, May 17th: The Zen Leaf
- Monday, May 17th: GLBT Reading - author interview
- Tuesday, May 18th: Eclectic Eccentric
- Wednesday, May 19th: Luxury Reading
- Thursday, May 20th: Worducopia
- Monday, May 24th: She is Too Fond of Books
- Tuesday, May 25th: The Feminist Review
- Wednesday, May 26th: Regular Rumination
- Thursday, May 27th: Book Club Classics