...despite a story that moves from Copenhagen to Paris to Dresden and back to Denmark again, this is the novel's true locus, its place of narrative urgency ... Ebershoff sets out to see his couple through their six-year journey toward Einar's nearly complete surgical and psychological transformation into Lili. Along the way, he seeks to dramatize the often contradictory relationship between necessity and desire, and the surprising, and affirming, adaptability of love ...The Danish Girl conjures a memorable look inside the mysterious black box of human sexuality ... The reader is inside a man who is changing, ambiguously and honestly, even as the words follow him on his strange journey. This is revelation, not clarification.
The time is 1925, the place is Copenhagen, and the protagonist of David Ebershoff's exquisite debut novel The Danish Girl is one Einar Wegener, a painter who specializes in dreary Danish landscapes ... This isn't a novel about a cross-dresser. Einar's urges run deeper than that –– he truly feels that, deep down, he is a woman trapped in a man's body. Ebershoff has woven a beautifully written novel out of the threads of a true story –– the story of Einar Wegener, the first man to undergo a sex change operation ... Ebershoff explores the complexities of Einar's sexual identity crisis with an immediacy that allows the reader to be just as confused, frightened, and enthralled as Einar and Greta often are ... His language and Nabokovian eye for detail provide delight after delight.
Ebershoff, executive editor at Random House, tells the story of a man who gets turned into a woman: a leisurely and old-fashioned first novel that will doubtless be riveting to many; others may find it a grandiose canvas for what it actually offers ... Gripping, though inconsistently, with Greta more compelling than Lili. And, for those so inclined, a hyperdetailed tour of times long gone.