I’m pretty lucky that people love to give me books for Christmas. I’m even luckier that people like to give me GOOD books for Christmas. Among other awesome gifts I received from my sister this year was David Ebershoff’s The Danish Girl. I’ve been intrigued by the movie trailers for quite a while, and as my sister knows, I always prefer to read the book before seeing the movie. So this was an awesome gift.
I really went into this read without knowing what to expect. I’ve never read a book like this before, and I was a little nervous about it if I’m being honest. I also had no idea it was based on a real person! I was really excited to learn that, because even if the book is mostly fiction, these people existed and they really did so much more than they could ever have imagined to move our world toward a place of open-mindedness.
Review: The Danish Girl, David Ebershoff
Plot: A fictionalized account of one of the first ever transgendered people to go through sex reassignment surgery, this book follows Lili Elbe, who was Einar Wegener, and Wegener’s wife, Greta.
Most Memorable Line(s): The scene in which Einar sits in the park, watching two boys play with a kite, is easily the most memorable for me in this book. The whole scene is painted picture perfectly; I couldn’t believe how easy the scene showed up behind my eyes. Because of its spoilery-nature, though, I’m not going to transpose the words here. Go read it to find out why it’s so memorable!
What I liked about it: Well, first and foremost, this book is written beautifully. Perfectly picturesque. The way Ebershoff deftly created his scenes made it easy to understand Einar’s and Greta’s world of painting; Ebershoff truly was painting with words in this novel. I thought the way he split the story into 3 parts made logical sense, as well. As Lili became more and more profound, the story grew and was subsequently given a new stage. I also loved the POV choice of third person limited. The way it shifted from Greta to Einar to Lili was fantastic. What I didn’t expect was how strongly I’d feel for Greta. I really thought her character was done brilliantly. I thought this story, really, was hers, not Lili’s, not Einar’s. I know that’s not the way it was written, but that’s how it felt to me, because Greta really seemed to get the most back story. I understood her thought process, her decision making, and I could feel her feelings so strongly throughout the 270 pages. That’s not to say Einar, Lili, or any of the other characters weren’t well written or strong characters. They were. But I think Greta was really a step above the rest.
What I didn’t like about it: I guess I need a disclaimer here: Because I’m not transgender, I know I’ll never actually be able to understand what that’s like. There were times, though, where I felt as though Ebershoff made Lili and Einar too different as people, as though they were never connected or the same in the first place. And I just don’t see how that’s possible. Particularly, the scenes where either Lili or Einar could not remember what happened with the other bothered me. It seemed too much like schizophrenia (which, to be fair, is shot down immensely creatively in the book) or dissociative identity disorder. And honestly, that was a bit hard to wrap my mind around at times.