The Danish Girl

David Ebershoff, Author
David Ebershoff, Author Viking Books $24.95 (270p) ISBN 978-0-670-88808-5
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Paperback - 270 pages - 978-0-14-029848-2
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-61657-831-2
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-61573-087-2
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-101-15646-9
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-101-15733-6
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-7538-2829-8
Compact Disc - 690 pages - 978-1-61573-086-5
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Ebershoff, the publishing director at Modern Library, has taken a highly unusual subject--and a big chance--for his first novel. That it comes off triumphantly is a tribute to his taste and restraint and to the highly empathetic quality of his imagination. His book is based on the real-life story of Einar Wegener, a Danish artist who 70 years ago became the first man to be medically transformed into a woman--long before the much better-known case of Christine Jorgensen. Ebershoff has naturally changed some of the characters, giving Einar an American wife from his own native city of Pasadena, thereby introducing a New World perspective on the drama. For a very real drama it is. Einar struggles with his inclinations to become the woman he and his wife, Greta, refer to as Lili, seemingly more agonized about what the change would mean than Greta, who is deeply loving and amazingly supportive throughout Einar's long ordeal. Seldom has the delicate question of sexual identity been more subtly probed (one would have to go all the way back to Jan Morris's autobiographical Conundrum); and Ebershoff's remarkable feel for the period atmosphere and detail of 1920s Copenhagen and early-'30s Dresden, where Lili's life-transforming operation is finally performed, has been poetically and intensely rendered. The portraits of the various medical men who offer their very different solutions to the problem are brilliantly accomplished. The original story ended much more unhappily than Ebershoff's, but his poignant and visionary conclusion is a fitting one for what is, above all, and despite its sensationalist trimmings, a profound and beautifully realized love story. Eight-city author tour; rights sold in Germany, Italy, U.K., Spain, Australia, Brazil, Finland, Portugal, the Netherlands and Denmark. (Feb.)
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