Can you write a compelling love story if you conceal the gender of one of the lovers? That's what the much-acclaimed British Winterson attempts in her fourth novel (The Passion, 1988; Sexing the Cherry, 1990; etc.). All we know about the narrator: (S)he lives alone in a London flat. (S)he is a freelance translator (Russian into English). (S)he used to like guys, but now is into women. (S)he will fight if provoked (``I've always had a wild streak''). (S)he has been around the block, and the bedrooms of various married ladies; nonetheless, after Catherine, Inge, Bathsheba, etc., (s)he is settling down with nice, undemanding Jacqueline when along comes Louise: an Australian redhead, married for ten years to wealthy, Jewish Elgin, a cancer researcher. Louise pursues the narrator (``you were the most beautiful creature male or female I had ever seen''), who happily succumbs; Louise leaves Elgin, and the lovers have five blissful months together before Elgin tells the narrator that Louise has cancer. Back under his care, she might survive; otherwise, no hope. The narrator leaves town (``our love was not meant to cost you your life''), then returns but fails to find Louise, who miraculously reappears. Granted, Winterson has found a medium-hip narrative voice that fits her requirements; that aside, her concealed gender gimmick is a barren demonstration of her craft. The cost of withholding is too high; a strained lyricism must do duty for the particulars of love, and the puzzle distracts attention from the heart of the matter: Can a veteran of bedroom sports still find an enduring love? That question disappears down the Segalesque escape-hatch of the deadly disease.