Quite unusually, I first got to know about The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff when the movie came out and I read about the same. Obviously it was too interesting to give up, so I watched the trailer and decided that I had to read the book.
The most interesting thing about the book, as you can probably guess from the cover image, is the fact that it talks about a real person who discovered his sexuality, much after he had already made some important choices in life. Also, as the book is based upon real events, it makes it all the more interesting. It is inspired by the real life events of Lili Elbe, who was one of the first person ever to undergo a sex reassignment surgery.
The story revolves around a couple, Einar and Gerda, both artists who fell in love and got married. While Einar is a successful painter, Gerda is still struggling to find a foothold in the world of art. Gerda specializes in making portraits, and one day, when her subject does not turn up, she requests her husband, Einar, to wear the woman's costume and pose. Initially Einar is skeptical and
uncomfortable, but soon realizes that he enjoys dressing up as a woman.
What begins as a simple request from Gerda turns into almost an obsession, with Einar taking on the name of Lili for those times when he dresses up as a woman. An entirely new person evolves, and becomes almost a separate entity, who does exist in flesh and blood. As the turmoil increases inside Einar, it also threatens to disrupt his relationship with his wife Gerda, as well as others Lili comes in close contact with.
I don't have to say that I loved the book, of course I absolutely loved it. It is a beautiful description of the kind of turmoil that goes on inside someone who is trying to confirm to society's pre-set norms, but is constantly going through the pains of living a fake life. The story is written in such a beautiful way that it will almost tear you apart, where you desperately want Lili to be happy in life and come out in the open, and worry about Einar and all that he is going through.
For a strange reason, I did not like the other character, Einar's wife Gerda. I found her to be immensely superficial, and even though she did appear to be supportive of Einar at times, urging him to be Lili, I felt as if she was too self-minded and self-centered for my liking.
I am glad I read the book, and understood so much of the trauma and anxiety that people with a different take on their sexuality go through each moment of their life. In a society that is judgmental, unapproving, biased, hypocrite and ready to call for blood, it's sad that love and existence are still concepts that are beyond the understanding of so many.
I am going to watch the movie soon, but I know I will love it as well. And as for the cover, oh my goodness....let me say I am in love with the actor who plays Lili - I fell in love with that face and those eyes...absolutely....
Have you read the book or watched the movie? If yes, which one and did you like? If both, which one did you like more?
- Debolina Raja