The Polished Hoe

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The Polished Hoe

by Austin Clarke

Dundurn | September 3, 2002 | Hardcover

The Polished Hoe is rated 2.5 out of 5 by 12.

Winner of the 2002 Scotiabank Giller Prize and of the 2003 Commonwealth Writers'' Prize: Best Book (Canada and the Caribbean)

When an elderly Bimshire village woman calls the police to confess to a murder, the result is a shattering all-night vigil that brings together elements of the African diaspora in one epic sweep. Set on the post-colonial West Indian island of Bimshire in 1952, The Polished Hoe unravels over the course of 24 hours but spans the lifetime of one woman and the collective experience of a society informed by slavery.

As the novel opens, Mary Mathilda is giving confession to Sargeant, a police officer she has known all her life. The man she claims to have murdered is Mr. Belfeels, the village plantation owner for whom she has worked for more than thirty years. Mary has also been Mr. Belfeels'' mistress for most of that time and is the mother of his only son, Wilbeforce, a successful doctor.

What transpires through Mary''s words and recollections is a deep meditation about the power of memory and the indomitable strength of the human spirit. Infused with Joycean overtones, this is a literary masterpiece that evokes the sensuality of the tropics and the tragic richness of Island culture.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 480 pages, 9.25 × 6.25 × 1.25 in

Published: September 3, 2002

Publisher: Dundurn

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0887621104

ISBN - 13: 9780887621109

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 1 out of 5 by from Cannot recommend this one I am usually happy with Heather's Picks; I imagined that this book would be similar to The Book of Negroes. The story was presented to me early in the book but I still hoped that the details would be interesting and enjoyable. The balance of the book was very repetitious. I skimmed huge amounts of text to get to the weak ending.
Date published: 2010-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A well spent conversation... Many people find The Polished Hoe repetitive, boring, that it rambles… but how you view this book is a near reflection of how you would view a conversation with the elderly. Because that’s what this is: it is the testimony/biography of Mary-Mathilda as she recalls the events of her life, in her own voice, through her eyes, even though her memory is fading due to age and the weight of the trauma she has lived through (hence the repetition and difficulty in bringing out repressed memories). Definitely not something to be read on a busy subway: save it for the golden moments of quiet, whether that’s after dinner or before bed or while eating your breakfast. Overall, a very satisfying read, if you finish it; and, it would help immensely if, as always, one remembers context (time, place, culture, state of the world) when reading.
Date published: 2008-01-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from First 100 pages are a great read The first hundred fpages are a great read. You feel her pain her mothers warmth, the life and times and sad realties. Then it's 400 pages of the same thing, becomes boring and is a chore to complete. I finished it however, I wouldn't reccomend it.
Date published: 2007-10-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Brutal I had to work my way through this one. I give a book 100 pages grace, and by that time I am usually engaged. This one I didn't retire to the shelves but to the recycling bin.
Date published: 2006-11-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Trip Into Another Time and Place I am disappointed that some didn't like this book, but it's a great read for someone who wants to see into another way of life. I think that to enjoy this book, you must be mentally prepared to view a culture different from your own... relax, and let the story steep in. The main character Mary-Mathilda is a woman of pride who grew up in a time when sugar plantations were the way of life for the 'small islands', as we West Indians say. Once you undersatnd the pace of the times you can fly though this book. I recommend this for when you wanna cuddle up and read and whisk yourself off to an older time where it's warm and the breeze is cool...
Date published: 2006-07-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Don't waste your time or money This was truly one of the worst books I have ever read. It was actually a chore to get through.
Date published: 2006-01-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Clarke just didn't hook me After reading a number of good reviews for this award-winning book and being intrigued by the synopsis, I launched into this book eagerly. I'm sorry to say, however, that I just could not finish it, and I'm too stubborn to not finish things I start. This is the only novel I started and did not finish reading. While I appreciate that the author no doubt intentionally forces the reader to slow down and adapt to a slow, meandering Caribbean pace, I grew bored and dissatisfied, losing interest in the novel entirely. I was very disappointed.
Date published: 2005-07-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Unforgettable, and compelling! This excellent novel unlocks the horrors of society effectively, beyond my imagination. The details within this book will entrap you in a world of corruption, class conflicts, and many other elements that will leave you in awe. This piece of literature has no doubt deserved the Giller Prize.
Date published: 2004-04-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not boring at all. I didn't find this book boring at all, although it was a bit lenghthy and anti-climactic at certain points. I found Mary Mathilda to be an interesting character and the story kept me engrossed until the end.
Date published: 2003-12-17
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Tedious and then some One wonders how a book could win so many prizes and garner such excellent reviews, yet be so mind-numbingly boring. Many reviewers have mentioned the shock value of the material, but most readers will glean the big secret within the first 50 pages. This renders the remaining 400 pages nearly useless. I am a voracious reader, but I had to force myself to read this in 50-page increments. My husband had to wake me up several times to finish my self-imposed assignment. In short, I would not recommend this book to anyone. Except as a sedative.
Date published: 2003-12-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The Polished Hoe I chose this book to read, as it was one of Heather's picks and the 2 books before this one were also Heather's picks and I enjoyed them a lot. I was also, as was Heather, attracted to the cover, after reading the inside jacket cover I felt this would be a great story. I have never struggled so hard to complete a book as I did with this one. The language was difficult to read, and the character in the story rambled on so often, it was difficult to understand what you were reading about. The last 50 pages were the best, but even they never really captured me with the story of abuse and murder. I am not a literary scholar but I found this Giller Prize winning book a struggle to read. I want to read a book that I can't put down, not one that is hard to pick up. I was determined to finish it, and I did. Friends want to read it, and I will be interested to know what they think of it, as their reading tastes differ a little from mine. I would be interested to read other reviews from o
Date published: 2003-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inner strength i recommend reading asap. an extraordinary story of one woman's life & struggle through slavery. shows the inner strength we all possess to overcome trials & tribulations.
Date published: 2003-02-07

– More About This Product –

The Polished Hoe

by Austin Clarke

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 480 pages, 9.25 × 6.25 × 1.25 in

Published: September 3, 2002

Publisher: Dundurn

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0887621104

ISBN - 13: 9780887621109

From the Publisher

Winner of the 2002 Scotiabank Giller Prize and of the 2003 Commonwealth Writers'' Prize: Best Book (Canada and the Caribbean)

When an elderly Bimshire village woman calls the police to confess to a murder, the result is a shattering all-night vigil that brings together elements of the African diaspora in one epic sweep. Set on the post-colonial West Indian island of Bimshire in 1952, The Polished Hoe unravels over the course of 24 hours but spans the lifetime of one woman and the collective experience of a society informed by slavery.

As the novel opens, Mary Mathilda is giving confession to Sargeant, a police officer she has known all her life. The man she claims to have murdered is Mr. Belfeels, the village plantation owner for whom she has worked for more than thirty years. Mary has also been Mr. Belfeels'' mistress for most of that time and is the mother of his only son, Wilbeforce, a successful doctor.

What transpires through Mary''s words and recollections is a deep meditation about the power of memory and the indomitable strength of the human spirit. Infused with Joycean overtones, this is a literary masterpiece that evokes the sensuality of the tropics and the tragic richness of Island culture.

About the Author

Culminating with the international success of The Polished Hoe in 2002, Austin Clarke''s work since 1964 includes ten novels, six short-story collections, and three memoirs published in the United States, England, Canada, Australia and Holland. In 1998, Clarke was invested with the Order of Canada, and since then he has received four honorary doctorates. In 1999, he was the winner of the W.O. Mitchell Prize, awarded to a Canadian writer who has produced an outstanding body of work and served as a mentor for other writers. In that year, he also received the Martin Luther King Junior Award for Excellence in Writing. Austin Clarke lives in Toronto.

From Our Editors

The Polished Hoe is an epic symphony of Caribbean life. Layers of disturbing history slowly unfold through one woman’s intimate, murderous confession. Mary-Mathilda – the fair-skinned mistress of a cruel plantation manager – tells her story in an exquisite, dancing vernacular and it is the story of a life, a culture, a time gone by. But its meditation on love, loss and sacrifice, and its explorations of lives distorted by the horrors of racism are utterly contemporary.

Editorial Reviews

Austin Clarke''s latest novel, The Polished Hoe, is that rare creation that soars above the earth to become more than the sum of its parts.