Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Danish Girl

By David Ebershoff

Greta and Einar Wegener are married and both are artists. Greta paints portraits that are less than successful. Einar paints landscapes, mainly of his gloomy and marshy birthplace and he is moderately successful.
One day, Greta needs to finish a portrait of a woman but the woman can't come to pose. So she talks Einar, who is a small, delicate man, into putting on the woman's clothing and sitting as a substitute so Greta can finish up the portrait. But once Einar dons women's clothing, something in him responds to it. Thus Lily is born.
Einar begins spending more and more time as Lily. He is happier that way. Gerta finds her transformed husband fascinating and begins a series of portraits of Lily. The Lily portraits are very popular and Gerta has become successful as an artist. Not that she needs the money. She is from a wealthy family in California and has plenty of money.
Einar spends more and more time as Lili and even begins to date men. Gerta's husband is slowly drifting away, being replaced by Lili, who is attracted to men and not to his own wife. The final nail in the coffin of their marriage is Lili's series of surgeries to complete the transition from male to female.

This novel was inspired by the life of Einar Wegener, but only inspired by it. It is a work of fiction. It was quite a good read but I think I would have enjoyed the true story of Einar more than this fiction. It is fun to imagine how people might feel and behave but even more interesting, in my opinion, is how they actually felt and behaved. I guess I was expecting more of a story based on fact, not on the author's imagination, so I was a bit disappointed.

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