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Editorial Reviews

Loosely based on the life of the first transsexual to undergo a sex change, Danish artist Einar Wegener, this novel is so much more than simply a voyeuristic glimpse into a little-known-about world. It’s about the marriage between Einar and his American wife Greta, how she copes with his alter-persona Lily – and even encourages it at times (Greta being the first person to suggest he slip into stockings so she can finish the legs of a female portrait she’s been working on, and even suggesting the name Lily). Alternating between the present day of their marriage and their respective pasts, a psychological profile is slowly woven together helping the listener fully understand the lives of these two (or three, depending on how you see it, as Einar and Greta both refer to Lily as a third person in their marriage) richly developed characters.
Woodman is the perfect storyteller for such a tale. His tone is subtle and unobtrusive, letting the prose shine. The character voice for Einar is a spot-on blend of masculinity, femininity, and vulnerability – the latter two even stronger for Lily. And he easily switches into a no-nonsense voice of strength and feminine confidence for Greta. Woodman’s pacing is slow and melodic, so the story unfolds without feelings of grandeur or shockwaves. You can listen to the inner thoughts of a man putting on a dress, and not feel that there’s anything particularly peculiar about it.
It’s clear that Woodman knows this story isn’t necessarily about delving into the lives of the atypical — it’s about love. And that’s something everyone can relate to. —Colleen Oakley
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Publisher's Summary

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 his wife on an afternoon chilled by the Baltic wind while both are painting in their studio. Her portrait model has cancelled; 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 20th century begins.
©2000 David Ebershoff (P)2010 HighBridge Company
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Critic Reviews

"Though the title character of David Ebershoff's debut novel is a transsexual, the book is less concerned with transgender issues than the mysterious and ineffable nature of love." (Amazon.com review)
“An unusual and affecting love story.” ( The New York Times)
“A sophisticated and searching meditation on the nature of identity.” ( Esquire)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Nicole on 02-07-17

Mixed Feelings

I have mixed feelings about this book. I really wanted to love it, but I feel like it went astray in a few too many ways. The publisher's summary says that this novel is loosely based on the lives of the artists Einar Wegenar and his wife Gerda. Einar Wegenar was one of the first people known to have undergone surgery for sex reassignment. The key word is loosely. I found the main thread of the story to be fascinating, so I did some research into the real lives of Einar/Lili and Gerda (called Greta in the book). David Ebershoff changed quite a few important details, which in itself is not a bad thing. This is fiction, after all, and a little artful restructuring often makes for a better story. However, I didn't feel that the details he changed improved the story, and I didn't see what the reasons were for some of the changes and omissions he made. Why make so many changes when the real story was actually much more interesting?

For example, the real Gerda wasn't American and wasn't married to anyone before Einar. There is a lot of speculation that Gerda was gay (or at least bi), which is not even hinted at in the book. Public scandal in conservative Copenhagen more or less forced the couple to leave the city in 1912, and it was in Paris that Einar was able to live openly as Lili. In the book, Einar/Lili's transformation journey has a furtive and surreptitious feel to it - something that not only wasn't entirely true in 1920's Paris, but which modern day audiences are far more willing to be open minded about.

I know a lot of other reviewers really enjoyed Jeff Woodman's narration performance, but I did not think he was the right narrator for this story. He does not do accents at all, and for a book that is set in several different European locations, good accents could have added quite a bit to the performance. Not only does he not do accents, he barely uses any distinguishing voice characteristics for the various characters, making it somewhat difficult to follow the story line at times. His reading was not very emotionally nuanced, either, which flattened out the story a bit. I wouldn't say that he did a bad job, but he didn't do a great job either. It was very middle-of-the-road.

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11 of 12 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Heather Auer on 12-14-15

An interesting, semi-nonfiction.

Would you consider the audio edition of The Danish Girl to be better than the print version?

I think I would have had difficulty reading some of the names/locations properly, and the narrator made it simple.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Danish Girl?

The ending.

What does Jeff Woodman bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

A clear, smooth reading of an interesting story with some challenging words and accents.

Any additional comments?

I enjoyed this. While it isn't entirely factual, it is an interesting view of the story before and behind the first male-to-female transgender surgery, and gives a well fleshed out setting of the time this took place.

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8 of 10 people found this review helpful

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