A journey through time, history, and the imagination--rather than to anywhere specific--makes up the theme of this new novel from critically acclaimed British writer Winterson (The Passion, 1988). Set loosely in 17th-century London, shortly before the execution of King Charles I, and ending with the Great Plague and Fire, the story is as much an exploration of ideas as a dazzling experiment in the surreal. The two major characters are Jordan, rescued as a small boy from the Thames, and Dog-Woman, the woman who rescues and rears him along with the dogs she breeds and sells in her but on the river. Dog-Woman is a giantess, big in size, in appetite--though not sexual--and passionate in her beliefs to the point of violence. A Royalist, she takes the injunction an-eye-for-eye literally as she seeks out enemies of the late King. Meanwhile, as Jordan grows up, he longs to travel, and to find new plants like the pineapple and the banana (for a time he and his mother help the King's gardener). He also searches the world for the mysterious dancer he loves, whom he once saw in a house that had no floors--the inhabitants walked about on suspended ropes. Dog-Woman and Jordan move back and forth in time, right up to the present, when Dog-Woman campaigns against pollution of the river. Eventually, Jordan meets his true love on a remote island, but she will not leave with him, and in his 20th-century incarnation he joins the British navy. Like the house with no floors, the characters and events here are only tenuously connected to a formal narrative or historical facts. The river, as much a metaphor for travel and time, continues to flow: it is the only reality. Winterson is at times quite brilliant in her interplay of character and imagination--and her characters are full-blooded creations. But her feminist and ecological concerns undermine the magical world of timelessness and wonder she has evoked, threatening to turn her novel into a dreary polemic.