The Danish Girl
(Based on a true story)
By David Ebershoff
Reviewed by Eden
“O, jeepers, the last thing I want to do right now is dine with my husband dressed up as a girl. But Greta would keep such thought to herself, biting her lip until she could taste her own blood. Instead, she would always welcome LIli as if she were an amusing, foreign friend.” –The Danish Girl
The book that I’ll talk about today is one of the few books that left a mark on me in 2016. Cliché, cliché wherever you are. Sorry, I hate starting paragraphs like this. Let me start over. ### Last year’s book of the month goes to The Danish Girl (stupidly doing air drums right now). One word that summarizes my 2016 (drum rolls): BERSERK. The first part of the year is (insert adverb of your choice) insane. I may have done a few reckless attempts to survive monster world but as weird as I sound right now, I assure you that somehow everything falls into place in the end. Come on, I’m not a villain to deserve a rain of misery on me.
How did this happen? Most of the time, nasty can make people nastier. Do you ever feel that? You wake up in the morning and decided that small things can be the ultimate joy in life, like the brewed coffee on the white mug you may not be finishing right away because you need to take a picture of it first (lightning strikes on me). Then something bad happens; like being late for school because you forgot your homework that was done five days ahead of deadline. The moment you arrived, the teacher accused you of being the type of person who’s never on time. The rebel inside you willed you to walk out of class. The situation is not even that major bad, but on my end I got into pretty messy things. I chose to not dwell on it. I focused on reading a lot because it provides you a safe dimension where you can hide from things that you don’t want to affect you for the meantime. I have not read a lot of books last year because Jamin and I riveted into developing this soon to be multimillionaire blog (one drop on the cymbals).
So far, The Danish Girl tops my list. Don’t worry. I’ll tell you why.
Set in the most populated city in Denmark, the story began at the Widow house, an apartment where husband and wife Einar Wegener and Greta Wegener lives. They would often be found painting side by side. Einar is a landscape painter who makes so much money from his art while Greta is a portrait artist who works with important people. They have this cute white dog called Edvard IV. They are a very good example of two married people who still pursue their own careers even after they wedded. Today, you either become a full-time wife slash mother or a full-time husband slash father. There’s nothing part-time when it comes to marriage (not that I am married or anything) not unless you count infidelity which is dangerous but also temporary. As I read on, a third major character Lili Elbe is introduced. She is first seen the time Greta needs to meet a deadline in finishing a portrait of Anna Fonsmark, a famous opera actress. Being a portrait artist, Greta needs someone to model for her so she could finish the painting. She noticed that Einar’s small feet would fit Anna’s shoes. That’s how Lili came to be. This will be followed by numerous Lili appearances,especially when Einar’s existence becomes lesser and lesser every day.
1. Einar Wegener
2. Greta Waud Wegener
3. Hans Axgil
4. Teddy Cross
5. Henrik Sandahl
6. Carlisle Waud
7. Anna Fonsmark
8. Dr. Bolk
Did the main characters run into any problems? Adventures?
Did you say problems? Yeah, there are lots of them. But I’ll list only five.
1. And he’s older than me, and stronger than me (guess what song is this from)
The first problem that becomes apparent in the story has something to do with Greta’s paintings. I have watched the movie starring Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander. It helped me have a clearer picture of what Denmark looks like since I am from the other side of the globe. Greta is a hardworking painter; in her opinion, even more hardworking than her husband. The trouble is that Einar seems to earn more than Greta. She would question the quality of her work versus her husband’s. In the movie, it can be seen that Greta paints on large canvasses while Einar on small ones. The art collectors however fall for the dull landscapes of the sea, the bog and even houses situated on top of hills. I may be imagining the houses. HAHAHA. Greta accepted this sourly, but her days of not being recognized as she deserves it changes when she discovered her passion in painting Lili. It is described in the book that nothing made Greta happier than painting Lili.
2. Overdose of Lili Elbe
What would you do if you have a beautiful lady for a husband?
I’ll off myself. HAHAHA.
This is the part where Greta’s patience is strained. Lili just won’t stop visiting. She would be all around the place that Greta would sometimes forget she has a husband. In the beginning, it was a droll. Lili would help Greta in her paintings. They would laugh together like two Danish sisters. Greta picks the clothes for Lili. Lili makes Greta’s name big in the art industry. Greta does Lili’s makeup. Lili does the background of Greta’s paintings. It is so much fun. But a wife needs a husband, but Lili wanted is to forget about Einar. This becomes very painful for Greta to the extent of being pernicious.
Take a look at this (from the movie):
Lili: Does it go well? Tell me how was it?
Greta: You would know if you’ve been there.
Lili: I made us a supper…
Greta: You should have come.
Lili: …a sort of celebration
Greta: This is not how it goes. We do these things together.
Lili: But with you and Einar.
Greta: Stop playing that stupid stupid game.
Lili: Please Gerda (Greta in the book); don’t think this is a game.
Greta: You …should have been there.
Lili: How could I? You look at me.
Greta: Not everything is about you. I need to see Einar.
Lili: (I didn’t get to hear what she said because Eddie Redmayne’s whispering the whole effing time) AHHAHA
Greta: I need my husband. Can you get him?
Lili: I can’t.
Greta: I need to talk to my husband. I need to hold my husband. I need him. Can you get him?…Can you at least try?
Lili: I’m sorry.
In contrast to this, at some point Greta thought that she wanted a husband and she wanted Lili as well.
3. Keep bleeding love
The bleeding started when Lili was kissed by Henrik Sandahl, a painter she met at the ball. Then later, she would bleed like a real female who’s having her menstruation. Greta, the worrier, sent Lili to see Dr. Hexler’s hospital. It’s a Radium Institution where Lili, not to her liking will undergo Ionizing Radiation. Dr. Hexler said that what’s inside Einar is a demon.
4. When being the first is bad
Einar Wegener is the first person to go sex reassignment surgery. Yes, it sounds dangerous. It sounds more painful than all the synonyms of painful. But the problem isn’t even the pain; it’s the fact that the doctor can’t tell what will happen after the operation.
5. When being the first is bad part two
Since, nobody has a basis of what’s going on to be able to derive a solution; most doctors think that Einar was insane. He was called a schizophrenic. He was advised to undergo lobotomy. All Einar wanted is to give life to Lili because she is already alive even from the start.
The Danish Girl made the Muggle Book of the Month Award of 2016 because it heightens this delicate issue of identity crisis. I know a few people who has been scared all their lives to come out. Our generation is actually even in a better position now given that the third sex is widely accepted (Amen to that). The book depicts an image of a shy lanky man who not only believes but knows deep inside him is a girl who deserves a life as much as he does. Einar has nobody but his wife to turn to. I hated Greta at first because she tolerated Einar’s fantasies, but it changed when I saw how true and great her love is for her husband. It’s a story of marriage that continued into friendship. I don’t know enough people who care about each other more than Einar and Greta. I don’t know enough wives who had loved their husbands more than Greta’s love for Einar. If you’re a sucker for love stories like I am (sometimes I just suck), you can try The Danish Girl and it’ll show you a whole different meaning of selfless love.