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The Danish Girl Paperback – 7 Dec 2000

13 customer reviews

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Paperback, 7 Dec 2000
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (7 Dec. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1865082708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753810798
  • ASIN: 0753810794
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Ebershoff, born in 1969 in California, is the author of four books of fiction, including The Danish Girl, The Rose City, and Pasadena. His most recent novel is the international bestseller, The 19th Wife. He has won a number of awards, including the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Lambda Literary Award, the Ferro-Grumley Award for excellence in gay and lesbian literature. His books have been translated into eighteen languages to critical acclaim. Two of his novels are being adapted for film and television. Ebershoff has taught creative writing at New York University and Princeton and currently teaches in the graduate writing program at Columbia University. He is an editor-at-large at Random House and lives in New York City.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Though the title character of David Ebershoff's debut novel is a transsexual, The Danish Girl is less explicitly concerned with transgender issues than the mysterious and ineffable nature of love and transformation in relationships.

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 starting 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 when, trying to finish a portrait, she asks Einar to stand in for her female sitter. Putting on her clothes and shoes, 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 encourages her husband not only to dress like a woman, but to take on a woman's persona, as well. 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.

Ebershoff's historical prestidigitation is remarkable, making it seem easy to create the sights and sounds and smells of 1930s Denmark. 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. Ebershoff's sensitivity to Greta is one of the finest achievements of this startling first novel; Einar is more of a cipher. In the end, this is Greta's book and David Ebershoff has done her proud. --Sheila Bright --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


This is a curiously touching tale, told in a lucid and sensitive style (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

An enthralling read (THE TIMES)

A beautifully written novel . . . elegant, assured and intelligent (DAILY EXPRESS)

The intelligence and tactfulness of his exploration of [love] makes his novel a noteworthy event (NEW YORK TIMES)

A first novel of startling refinement and beauty (Chicago Tribune)

Heartbreaking and unforgettable, it is a complete triumph (Boston Globe)

Beautifully written. It is absolutely engrossing . . . [an] elegant, assured and intelligent tale; as a first noivel, it is astounding (SUNDAY EXPRESS)

Intriguing and captivating . . . a resonant fable about metamorphosis and the construction of identity. This admirable book deserves to find a wide readership (DAILY TELEGRAPH)

Be enchanted by THE DANISH GIRL . . . elegant and sensitive writing (ELLE)

[An] affecting and graceful debut (NEW STATESMAN)

The book is a sensuous treat, its symbolic visual imagery combining with mesmeric recreations of period and place . . . Einar and his wife are treated with sympathy, and a potentially sensational or bizarre subject is treated with dignity (ART NEWSPAPER)

This is a curiously touching take, told in lucid and sensitive style that shows great insight into an extraordinary predicament . . . an engrossing story of true love, suffering and sacrifice (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 July 2001
Format: Paperback
This story begins in 1925 in Copenhagen, and charts the marriage between a young Californian heiress, Greta, who marries her shy & reserved professor of painting, Einar. Both artists, they live and work together. When a subject does not show for her portrait sitting, Greta asks Einer to don the subject's dress to allow her to complete her painting. From this simple request, Einar's repressed longing to express himself as a female first emerges. Gradually, over the years of their marriage, he more frequently dresses as Lili, his feminine persona. Greta accepts her husband's wishes, and even encourages them in her devotion, although this leads them both to the precipice of all of their lives, Greta's and Einar's and Lili's. Sensitively written, the characters reveal their motivations only gradually, and the author maintains a distance that allows the reader to always want more. Not at all expoitative or pornographic, the subject is handled in such a way as to expose only human beings trying to express themselves, and one cannot fail to be moved by the truth of their journeys through their lives.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Pebblegem on 20 May 2011
Format: Paperback
A very interesting and unusual tale, it made me want to know more about the 3 main characters, which can only be a good thing. I have actually bought a print by the artist since reading this book, because it's such an interesting tale.
The wife is from a very wealthy American family but defies their wishes by by moving to Europe. She eventually marries her college teacher. Soon realising that all is not as it perhaps should be between man and wife.
A tale of a love that bercomes strengthened, then strained and then very much complicated.
I loved the authors style of writing. But for a story so full of passions, the ending left me a little wanting.

It is a tremendously interesting true story and I can't help but feel that this narrative does not do it justice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Denise4891 TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 April 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Ebershoff says in his Author's Note that this is a work of fiction loosely inspired by the case of Einar Wegener (the first person to undergo gender reassignment surgery) and his wife Greta.

It's a very sensitive and compassionate book, which I felt tended to sympathise more with Greta's position, as she bravely supported and enabled her husband as he drifted further and further away from her. In fact, I didn't think I got to know Einar/Lili very well at all and both personae came across as a bit shallow and self-centred at times. Don't worry if you're squeamish; there isn't a lot of detail about Einar's surgery as the book deals more with the emotional pain the couple suffer as their relationship changes.

The backdrop to all this is the artistic scene in Europe in the 1920s and 30s, a very interesting and liberal time in which Einar finds it relatively easy to transform himself into Lili and conduct a double life.

The ending of the book is a bit ambiguous, so I couldn't resist going online to try to find out what actually happened to the real Greta and Lily. Apparently there are plans to make the book into a film with Nicole Kidman as Einar/Lili and Charlize Theron as Greta.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 3 July 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a stunning debut novel by someone who is no novice to the publishing industry, as he is the director of The Modern Library, which is a division of Random House. With this book as his entree into the ranks of novelist, Mr. Ebershoff rightly claims a place among the distinguished. This is a most elegantly written novel.
His book is loosely based upon the true story of Danish painters, Einar Wegener and Gerda Waud. They met in Copenhagen, while they were both art students, and married a few years later. He painted landscapes, while she would become known for her paintings of a mysterious sloe-eyed beauty. When it eventually became known that the model for the mysterious beauty in Gerda's paintings was, in fact, her cross-dressing husband, they became the scandal of Copenhagen. They left Denmark and sought refuge in Paris, France, where the mystery woman of Gerda's paintings began appearing in the flesh among the denizens of the Parisian demi-monde.
There is little doubt that Gerda encouraged her husband in his cross-dressing, as well as in his eventual surgical transformation. In 1930, the couple again turned the world on its head when it became known that Einar Wegener had undergone the world's first known sex re-assignment operation in Germany, and emerged as Lili Elbe. This provoked the King of Denmark himself to annul their marriage. Unfortunately, Lili Elbe's life as a surgically transformed woman ended in 1931 with her death.
The author expertly weaves these facts, which were the inspiration for this novel, into a lyrically written, haunting narrative about two people who were bound to each other by an unconditional love that would transcend the conventional. He creates an intriguing, spellbinding story that is a sensitive portrait of a most unusual marriage.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lily Elbe was born Einar Wegener, a Danish artist married to an American painter, Gerda Gottlieb, and destined to be of the first real-life recipients of the then extremely dangerous and painful sex reassignment surgery in the 1920s/30s.
To all accounts, Eddie Redmayne is primed for yet more well-deserved adulation for his apparently mesmerizing portrayal of the gender reassessment pioneer in the film of “The Danish Girl”, which is set to hit the screens as soon as Christmas is behind us, but which we will get a taster of when it is screened at the Venice and other film festivals from September. Have absolutely no doubt that he will do a cracking job and offer up a sensitive and hugely credible performance, particularly as it is Tom Hooper who has taken the directorial reins.
I’ve just finished the book upon which the film is said to be based, though, and am feeling very deflated, not to say flat-chested, indeed. Written back in 2000, it will no doubt reappear on all the shop bookshelves shortly with a newly vamped cover, good to go in time for the film coming out, and every bit as alluring as Eddie/Lily herself. But as a reader, I’m feeling decidedly shortchanged...
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