The Danish Girl – David Ebershoff
Audiobook from audible.com
I chose this book after reading Ebershoff’s 19th Wife and being totally impressed. They had a half price deal on Audible and I jumped at it. I’m still pretty new to audiobooks in general, having only started listening since the little guy came along. In general, the books I’ve listened to I’ve enjoyed, but this is the first time I wished I had read the book rather than listened.
Ebeshoff incorporates the three languages of the three countries the book is set in into his narrative – Danish, French and German. This obviously made for a challenge for the audiobook narrator, I understand that. But I spend a lot of time in Denmark – and the French pronunciation of the Danish names made for a really confusing listen. For example, the character Henrik’s name really changed the way I experienced him as a character. The name Henrik is pronounced the exact same way in Danish as it is in English. However, in the audiobook they kept referring to him as ‘Enrique’ and thus I kept picturing him as an exotic foreigner. But later he changed the pronunciation slightly so I heard that it must be Henrik – and I ended up having to do a quick search to confirm. Anyways it just really started to grate on me and I really didn’t want to keep listening to this book.
That said – the story itself – was truly fascinating. Einar Wegnar, a Danish artist, is married to a rather special Californian named Greta. Wegnar is based on a real-life Danish painter, but it seems a rather loose association. Wegnar discovers, with the help of his wife, that inside of him is a woman – longing to get out. A young woman named Lily, much younger than Einer, and quite attractive emerges slowly but surely into Einar and Greta’s lives.
The development of Lily is the finest part of this book. The way she slowly emerges and develops. The way she evolves and grows, like an almost child like character into a woman, is beautiful to follow. Ebershoff jumps back and forth between time periods, delving into Einar and Greta’s pasts and giving you just enough backstory to accept the current state of their relationship. These two characters are incredibly well developed and thought out. This makes some of the more underdeveloped characters stand out just a little more. I was often surprised by some of the other characters’ reactions to Lily/Einar and wished I could have a little more motivation for some of it (but I won’t say too much as I don’t want to give away any major plot points)
I have a hard time recommending this audiobook, as I struggled to finish it, but the book seems it would be a worthwhile read.
And I will mention that this book sparked a bit of an off topic discussion – if anyone knows anything about this random subject – one thing that really jumped out at me and threw me out of the this book was the way Lily made her fake breasts at least one time.
According to the story Lily used avocado pits to form the base of her fake breasts while vacationing somewhere in Denmark (if I was following correctly). The book is set almost 100 years ago. Today, living not so far from Denmark, it is an effort to get a good avocado (they are often really not ripe – like rocks, or very over ripe. I have yet to find a way of optimizing eating them although I am stubborn and try all the time). Did they really have great access to avocados in Denmark in the early 1900’s? I guess it is possible, but man I spent way to much time wondering about that.