It’s been awhile since my last post but in that time, I’ve finished The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff, and loved it.
The novel takes place in the roaring 1920s following a young couple of artists, Einar and Greta. Einar has never felt fully himself in his body until he and his wife ‘create’ a new character named Lili whom he dresses and acts as. Eventually, it becomes clear that Einar has never really been Einar and really identifies himself as Lili. Thus starts one of the most heartbreaking and uplifting love stories of the 20th century.
Transgender people have recently became a hot topic in today’s society; their rights, their freedom, their lives. However, transgenderism existed long before anyone really knew what to call it. In the novel, Ebershoff bases true events of Lili Elbe into the plot which makes the novel even more moving and relateable to real life. It was extremely terrifying being ‘this way’ back in the 20s (Lili was never referred to as transgender in the novel since the phrase had not been coined yet); neither Einar or Greta knew what was going on, only that Einar was ‘different’ than most people. The secrecy and discrimination kept Lili and Greta on their toes until Lili decided that she needed to become Einar or Lili, not both. Of course, science wasn’t perfect back then and it still isn’t now but it was amazing to read about Lili’s transition and the affect it had on her, and Greta.
I don’t want to ruin too much of the novel for readers that haven’t read it yet (because I really think you should), but I believe that the ‘greatest love story of the 20th century’ that everyone raves about is not between Greta and Lili as everyone mostly assumes; I believe that it really about the love between Einar and Lili. Lili believed herself to truly be Lili which is the hardest thing to do, especially back in the 20s. As Einar died, his love for Lili became her love for herself and that is really the greatest love story.
A must-read and then you can watch the movie as a visual. The movie is never as good as the book (obviously) but does have some great moments in it as well. Hope you enjoy the novel as much as I did!