David Ebershoff The Danish Girl

ISBN 13: 9780670888085

The Danish Girl

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9780670888085: The Danish Girl
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Set in decadent 1920s Copenhagen, this tender tale of love and marriage in the midst of fundamental crisis introduces a man who discovers he's a woman and the woman who will do anything for him. Original.

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Review:

Though the title character of David Ebershoff's debut novel is a transsexual, the book is less concerned with transgender issues than the mysterious and ineffable nature of love. Loosely based on the life of Danish painter Einar Wegener who, in 1931, became the first man to undergo a sex-change operation, The Danish Girl borrows the bare bones of his story as a jumping-off point for an exploration of how Wegener's decisions affected the people around him. Chief among these is his Californian wife, Greta, also a painter, who unwittingly sets her husband's feet on the path to transformation. While trying to finish a portrait of an opera singer who has cancelled a sitting, she asks Einar to stand in for her subject, putting on her dress, stockings, and shoes. The moment silk touches his skin, he is shaken:

Einar could concentrate only on the silk dressing his skin, as if it were a bandage. Yes, that was how it felt the first time: the silk was so fine and airy that it felt like a gauze--a balm-soaked gauze lying delicately on healing skin. Even the embarrassment of standing before his wife began to no longer matter, for she was busy painting with a foreign intensity in her face. Einar was beginning to enter a shadowy world of dreams where Anna's dress could belong to anyone, even to him.
Greta soon recognizes her husband's affinity for feminine attire, and encourages him not only to dress like a woman, but to take on a woman's persona, as well. "Why don't we call you Lili?" she suggests. What starts out as a harmless game soon evolves into something deeper, and potentially threatening to their marriage. Yet Greta's love proves to be enduring if not immutable. As Einar inexorably transforms, he steps beyond "that small dark space between two people where a marriage exists" and Greta lets him go.

Ebershoff does a remarkable job of historical prestidigitation, creating the sights and sounds and smells of 1930s Denmark and making it seem easy. Even more remarkable is his treatment of Greta: he gets inside her head and heart, and renders her in such loving detail that her reactions make perfect sense. Einar is more of a cipher, and ultimately less interesting than his wife. But in the end, this is Greta's book and David Ebershoff has done her proud. The Danish Girl marks a promising fictional debut. --Sheila Bright

About the Author:

David Ebershoff is the publishing director of the Modern Library, a division of Random House. Originally from Pasadena, California, he now lives in New York City.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780143108399: The Danish Girl: A Novel (Movie Tie-In)

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0143108395 ISBN 13:  9780143108399
Publisher: Penguin Books, 2015
Softcover

9781474601573: The Danish Girl (Weidenfeld and Nicholson)

Weiden..., 2015
Softcover

9780140298482: The Danish Girl: A Novel

Penguin, 2001
Softcover

9780753810798: The Danish Girl

Orion ..., 2000
Softcover

9781865082707: The Danish Girl

Allen ..., 2000
Softcover

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