Book 6 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from January 8-11
The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
Summary (via the book jacket)
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 a wife on an afternoon chilled by the Baltic wind while both are painting in their studio. Her portrait model had canceled; would he slip 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.
5 star read.
This book handles everything with sensitivity. The things I found troublesome didn't have to do with the clothing or makeup at all. It was difficult because while I would think Einar was acting very selfishly by wanting to go out with someone else, at the same time I also wanted him to be free to be himself. I hope Greta can find her happy ending too because she made so many sacrifices to make the one she loved happy.
I know it's complex but if I was reading this without knowing the backstory, I would've thought Einar had a multiple personality disorder because of the memory lapses. It really was like there were two completely different people struggling to be dominant in the same body. They did mention and dismiss schizophrenia as a possibility which addressed some of the thoughts I had.
Having nobody either find out by accident or getting mad when Einar revealed himself didn't seem realistic but I'm not going to quibble over that because as a story, this was great. I was disappointed when the book was over because I want the rest of the story; I want to know how Lili and Greta ended up. Thanks to the author for bringing this person to my attention and writing it so well, I look forward to more research.
A Few Quotes from the Book
"Greta didn't say anything. She felt as if someone were explaining the rules of a new parlor game: she was listening and nodding but actually thinking to herself, I hope I understand this better once the game begins."
"All of this Greta did with a sense of devotion, for she always believed she could defy anyone in the world except her husband. It had been the same with Teddy. She could cross her mother and debate her father and snub all of Pasadena and Copenhagen alike, but in her chest was a bottomless well of tolerance for the man she loved. She never questioned it, why she allowed Lili to come into their lives. Anything to make Einar happy, she would tell herself. Anything at all."
" "Do you think I'm going insane?" [Einar] said.
[Greta] sat up. "Insane? Who told you that?"
"No one. But do you?"
"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Who's been telling you that? Did Carlisle say something to you?"
"No. It's just that I sometimes don't know what's going on with me."
"But that's not true," she said. "We know exactly what's going on with you. Inside of you lives Lili. In your soul is a pretty young lady named Lili. It's as simple as that. It has nothing to do with being crazy."
"I was just wondering what you thought of me."
"I think you're the bravest man I know," she said."