The Polished Hoe
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The Polished Hoe

3.19 of 5 stars 3.19  ·  rating details  ·  866 ratings  ·  85 reviews

When Mary-Mathilda, one of the most respected women of the island of Bimshire (also known as Barbados) calls the police to confess to a crime, the result is a shattering all-night vigil that brings together elements of the island's African past and the tragic legacy of colonialism in one epic sweep.

Set in the West Indies in the period following World War II, The Polished H

MP3 Book, 0 pages
Published November 6th 2009 by Recorded Books, LLC (first published 2002)
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Nancy Oakes
As the story begins, Mary-Mathilda Paul (also known as Mary-Mathilda Belfeels) is talking to the local Constable on the island of Bimshire (as Clarke tells us, also known as Barbados). In fact, he is there to take down her preliminary statement for some crime that she has committed but the reader does not know what exactly that crime is. As she speaks, she wanders off in her thoughts, reflections of island living. Eventually the Sargent, Percy, arrives to take the statement. Before he and Mary-M...more
Tracy Salguero
If you ever want to fall asleep fast READ THIS BOOK! Worst book i've ever read this year. The history of Brimshaw was interesting but it wasn't captivating enough to want to speed through the book. I just kept wondering if 1 of 2 things were going to happen...was she gonna do it or was she gonna tell him? It was painful to get to the end, but I made it...thankfully.
Andrew Clauder
Austin Clarke presents a captivating tale of murder, mystery, and tyranny. The mistress of Mr. Bellfeels, a powerful landowner in the country of Bimshire, known commonly as Barbados, calls the local police to confess a crime. In her confession, she tells a story of life, love, and subjugation as the unfortunate lover of a sickening man, but no one could be prepared for the horrible truths she unveils.
The novel itself is a difficult read, with current speaker and point of view often becoming ve...more
Shirley Schwartz
Clarke's book is a difficult one to read and is certainly not for those looking for a quick escape with a happy ending. The action of the story takes place over a single night, but it covers years of the life on a small West Indian island that had it's beginnings in slavery. Mary-G is a black woman born to as a fourth generation slave on this island. Like her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother before her she worked in the fields for a white overseer on a sugar cane plantation. She also fo...more
Fred Anderson
Absolutely stupendous! Austin Clarke and I have been friends for over thirty years and corresponded throughout the writing of the novel. I just recently visited his hometown of Barbados and the setting of the novel. Mary-Mathilda tells of murder both personal and political; hers is the murder of children; slavery and the murder of the middle passage; of African children; of past memories and dreams deferred; of ghosts and visions of a post-colonial Barbados/West Indies.
A story of loyalties and b...more
Okay, I don't do this very often but....I am not finishing this book. I got about halfway through and I CAN'T GO ON!! This book won an award so I pushed through hoping that it would get better but I just can't go any further. Story line is WAY too slow and everything is described in too much detail. Time line also jumps all over the place. Just can't seem to get into the story line or even the characters for that matter. Sorry Autin Clarke! Can't recommend this book.
I really wanted to like it. Parts I did like but I found I just couldn't take the repetitive reminiscing and language. I listened to it and the performance was great, I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to read it if it was written in the vernacular. I quit on disc 5.
I will always finish a book, not matter what. This book though was tough to finish, mainly because it is is written in old slave dialect. Ugh!
Though this is fiction, you need to read it as you would a history. Don't rush the plot. Soak up the facts, and the legacy of colonialism.
The Polished Hoe is a fictional Caribbean piece of literature, inclusive with tangents and yet masters exceptional depiction which is told in about a night's time by the central character, Mary-Mathilda. Through her confession to a murder, a long drawn out history of the island, Barbados, renamed "Bimshire" and her own life story is disclosed Her experiences of rape, brutality forced upon her by men of the village and an isolated life as the mistress to a well-positioned Mr. Bellfeels are all co...more
First, I'll start with the good.
I listened to the audio of this book. The narration was wonderful. I loved the accent, the emphasis and the pacing of the reading. It added a dimension and texture to the story.
I enjoyed the history of Bimshire (Barbados). This book covers a gamut of historical issues: slavery, class distinctions, opportunities (or not) of the people, climate. In here is world of many levels, people subdued & terrified, people empowered by wealth; there's a subtlety of the ma...more
I had this book on my book shelf for at least 4 years before I read it. I had read Austin Clarke before and loved his writing style - and just knew this was a book I wanted to read. But you need time to read this book - and you need to be patient, oh so patient to listen to the side stories, knowing the truth was coming.

I have read the book twice now - the first time too fast because I so wanted to know what the answer was to the question posed - and you wait right to the very, very end for that...more

"When Mary-Mathilda, one of the most respected women of the island of Bimshire (also known as Barbados) calls the police to confess to a crime, the result is a shattering all-night vigil that brings together elements of the island's African past and the tragic legacy of colonialism in one epic sweep.

Set in the West Indies in the period following World War II, The Polished Hoe -- an Essence bestseller and a Washington Post Book World Most Worthy Book of 2003 -- unravels over the course of...more
Jun 14, 2008 Karen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people wanting to learn about Barbados history
Shelves: fiction
I chose this book because it takes place in Barbados where I was going to visit. It took me a really long time to read and I can't quite figure out why. The bulk of it is dialog, which usually makes for a fast read, but this dialog was written in the Bajan dialect which slowed me down.

The story itself takes place in 24 hours, but it is the story of someone telling a story, so it really is the story of her life. And a lot of history of plantations in Barbados. Not a good life, especially for the...more
Beautifully written. An intriguing look into another country, another culture, another time. Gentle stories of everyday threaded through with major events, and a history of race relations in one West Indian island.

Recommended for long, leisurely reads (like on a trans - continental train) as this requires some effort to get to the end. About half way through I started to find some of the stories repetitive, and to wonder if the plot would ever reach a final point or conclusion. I actually took a...more
Unfortunately, I couldn't finish this book. I was drawn in quickly by the well developed characters and the author's rich description but often the details went on and on. The plot is intriguing and I hate that I couldn't find out how it ended but the prattling descriptions and on-going back story didn't seem relevant after a point. And the format of 3 sections rather then many chapters, added to the torture. I couldn't find a breaking point to stop and give myself a break from the rambling of a...more
Luz  C. Johnson
This is the story of Mary Gertrude Mathilda. From beginning to end, the novel is a relentless dialogue between Mary and a Sargent. The dialogue revolves on the Sargent taking Mary's statement over a murder. The so called statement is 462 pages long. The greatest downfall of the novel was precisely this long, endless dialogue full of unnecessary verbosity.
New, aspiring writers are frequently told to show instead of telling, which is a great technique of engaging the reader into the story. One of...more
Rita Macdonnell
||: a long, slow sea of undulating language, long, long sentences, smooth and rhythmic, unravel meaning in slow, low waves, advancing and receding, revealing hints of story, nuances on insight, in sudden flashes, startling rolling crashes, just as quickly quiet ended, hidden from us, smothering, soothing, a soft lullaby, rocking lulling, interrupted, punctuated by brief bursts, quick staccato punches against the undulating tedium until a gradual crescendo signals a coming, perhaps a revelation,...more
David W.
A Giller Prize winner
I was expecting great things from it
But it was the slowest reading book I have tried to read in a long time.
100 pages in and I stopped
462 pages and I could not imagine reading the rest
Not going to rate it.
Melissa Andrews
I listened to this book as an audiobook but I couldn't finish it. It just tool too long to get to the main part. I read other Goodreads reviews and it seemed as though everyone felt that it was worth wading through all the memory lane stuff at the beginning to get to the meat of the story, but I kept going through CD after CD and nothing. Plus, the characters won't really holding my interest. So I renewed it once, but when it came due again, I returned it to the library. Maybe if I try it again...more
Sep 28, 2007 Janaia rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the opened minded
I thought this was a well written book. Surprising to me, a lot of people didn't like it. It starts a little slow, but if you have experience with the West Indies (family or studies) it's easier to understand. The story line is very real and shows life in a very different world. Some of the small islands had issues with the 'lighter skinned' being treated better then the 'darker skinned' or those with mixed blood (white/black) had more privilages than those who didn't, and so on. Having an under...more
The length was sooo daunting.
I couldn't finish; the one long night of conversation was not plausible and the meandering conversation was tough going. "The win was bewildering" (said The Globe and Mail). I agree.
You know who did it. Yet, the more you read, the circumstances around the murder become the mystery. You ask for the motive. There were plenty of those. Then, you ask the 'whys' for the location, the weapon, the opportunity, the utter lack of remorse. The culprit is your victim and your hero. You sympathize with both the officer and the lady. You cheer the murderer who you cannot see as a criminal. And you walk away wondering the most important 'why' of them all: Why do I love this book so much?
Tanya Patrice
This book started out promising, but about 1/4 of the way into the book, it becomes dull and boring. It no longer becomes a story of murder, but instead starts detailing the history of the island of Bimshire, the history of slavery & racism in the island, in America & in Europe. That's a lot to tackle for one book and I became totally lost - what direction was the author heading? I'll be honest, I skimmed over the pages of the 2nd half - I tried to keep up but got lost in boredom.
May 28, 2012 Alison rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those looking for a literary accompaniment to their rum punch.
A poetic, meandering confession, the novel evokes the tropics in nearly every syllable, to the point that I could smell the sea and feel the hot, wet air. For a book that deals explicitly with the violence and brutality of post-slavery plantation life, "The Polished Hoe" is occasionally, oddly, sweet and more than a little dreamy. The more I think about it, the better I think this book was, but it takes a good long while to wander back to the point.
The pace of the narrative mirrors that of the characters it is about - island time. If you're looking for brain candy or twists and turns every few pages that will keep you on the edge or your seat and cause you to speed through the reading process in a couple hours, this isn't the book for you. But it's pretty good if not quite great and I'd definitely recommend this novel to fans of well written literary fiction.
An interesting, tortuous meander through the two main character's memories as they face a present situation. This book allows us to view how life was for African Americans, particularly women in the West Indies in the first half of the 20th century. While some may find it 100 pages too long, if you relax into island time, the story telling becomes soothing. There's no rush which fits the plot perfectly.
Ugh. This book drove me crazy, the writing style, the story line, etc. Too slow, meandering all over the place, not a book to try reading on the train in the morning. My conclusion, I found it hard to connect with any of the characters, and I found myself skimming through pages because I couldn't be bothered to actually read an entire page through. How did this novel win a prize??
The language is what I remember from this book. The most startling revelations coming to us in a dialect most earthy, real, and expressive. The cover art was the first thing that brought this exceptional voice to my attention, but it was not long before I realized this was Literature writ large. I look forward to his latest exploration of race and language.
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CBC Books: * 2002 - The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke 4 10 May 16, 2014 01:18PM  
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Austin Ardinel Chesterfield Clarke is a Canadian novelist, essayist and short story writer who lives in Toronto, Ontario. He has been called "Canada's first multicultural writer".

Clarke had his early education in Barbados and taught at a rural school for three years. In 1955 he moved to Canada to attend the University of Toronto but after two years turned his hand to journalism and broadcasting. H...more
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