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Pollard, By Laura Beatty

In ancient English woodland a runaway girl, fleeing the chaos of a family where "problems grew in her head, as thick as the trees", slips season by season into the life of a hermit.

Anne's retreat from bruising humanity into a solitary life "against the grain of the time" forms the dappled, tangled backdrop to a remarkable first novel.

Punctuated by a "chorus of trees" and their "living record" of the past, this rhapsodic portrait of a loner in her landscape grows into a toughly beautiful version of pastoral.

Pollard joins the nature-mysticism of a Jeffries or Kipling with a newer green concern for the ruin of time-hallowed habitats.