I can’t help but feel that this story, loosely based on a real person from the past, should have been set in the future. The author treats his characters with such a high degree of dignity and compassion, coming not only from himself – which is wonderful – but also from each other, which leaves me a little confused and reeks of naive optimism. It’s a shiny fantasy story with surprisingly little conflict. Even the results of the stock market crash in 1929 are just barely given any acknowledgement and we feel like in 1930 one could just cruise, nevermind that the financial implications of the medical care that takes place. I’m pretty sure being self-employed as an artist has never come with full medical coverage, no matter what the level of success.
Every major character in this thing is a saint, and there’s exactly one real disagreement worth speaking of to be found between them in the entire thing, even with a divorce! To say this is startling is a major understatement, given subject matter that was virtually unheard of then, and is still an extremely delicate topic over 90 years later. The conflict we do get is token, and I just can’t believe anyone in Lili’s position could have it so easy. It’s like the author wanted some of the edginess that comes with trans issues, but then completely wimped out. In times like these when some empathy could really mean life or death, I find it a little disturbing. Even if I’m wrong and it’s not part of the problem, it’s definitely not part of the solution, either. This story is too nice and I was left wanting much more. More depth, realism, and struggle, but also that real life could be just a little more like it.