I was excited when we chose this book because Jeanette Winterson is a writer I had wanted to read before but I’d often heard her writing could be difficult to get into, so I figured being able to discuss this with a reading group would hopefully give me a greater understanding.
The story is set in the seventeenth century and its two main characters are the Dog Woman, a gigantic and fearsome creature, and Jordan, the child she rescues from the Thames.
In a creative tale that mixes time travel, fairy tales, historical events and a touch of magic, Jordan follows his dreams and travels the world with Tradescant, one of the gardeners of King Charles II court.
“Every journey conceals another journey within its lines: the path not taken and the forgotten angle. These are the journeys I wish to record. Not the ones I made, but the ones I might have made, or perhaps did make in some other place or time.”
The novel is told in alternating chapters and while I preferred the narrative of the Dog Woman because it was so unexpected and bold, one of my favorite sections was when Jordan meets the 12 princesses. This is Winterson’s retelling of the Brothers Grimm story with a feminist perspective. Unlike the Grimm story, where it is up to the Prince to choose a princess, here the young women decide their fate.
The women in this novel are no simpering misses, instead they are powerful and assertive. The Dog Woman recounts tales of sexual adventure in the same manner as brutal acts she has committed.
Truly, I think the Dog Woman will go down as one the most memorable characters in fiction that I’ve ever come across. While I can’t say I loved this story, I’m definitely glad I’ve finally read it. I found it ambitious and grand for such a slim novel.