Arcs Austin Clarke The Polished Hoe

ISBN 13: 9780060555658

The Polished Hoe

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9780060555658: The Polished Hoe

When Mary-Mathilda, one of the most respected women on the colonized island of Bimshire (also known as Barbados), calls the police to confess to a crime, the result is a shattering all-night vigil. She claims the crime is against Mr. Belfeels, the powerful manager of the sugar plantation that dominates the villagers' lives and for whom she has worked for more than thirty years as a field laborer, kitchen help, and maid. She was also Mr. Belfeels's mistress, kept in good financial status in the Great House of the plantation, and the mother of his only son, Wilberforce, a successful doctor, who after living abroad returns to the island.

Set in the period following World War II, The Polished Hoe unravels over the course of twenty-four hours but spans the lifetime of one woman and the collective experience of a society characterized by slavery. Infused with Joycean overtones, this remarkable novel -- winner of the 2002 Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Prize Best Book Award, Canada and Caribbean region; and a bestseller in Canada -- evokes the power of memory and the indomitable strength of the human spirit.

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About the Author:

Austin Clarke is a professor of literature and has taught at Yale, Brandeis, Williams, Duke, and the Universities of Texas and Indiana. He assisted in setting up a Black Studies program at Yale in 1968, after which he became the cultural attaché of the Embassy of Barbados in Washington, D.C. Culminating with the international success of The Polished Hoe, which won the Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and the Trillium Prize, Austin Clarke's work since 1964 includes eleven novels, six short-story collections, and four memoirs. He lives in Toronto.

From Publishers Weekly:

Clarke, considered one of Canada's finest political novelists, but less well known in the U.S. (a memoir, Pig Tails 'n Breadfruit, was published by the New Press in 2000), gets a new launching in this country with this eloquent, richly detailed novel, awarded Canada's Giller Prize. A murder takes place in the 1950s on the fictional Caribbean island of Bimshire (a stand-in for Clarke's native Barbados), where the culture of English gardens and cricket contrasts sharply with the legacy of slavery. The murderer is Mary Gertrude Mathilda, a respected elderly black matriarch. But the identity of the victim is less clear. In the 24 hours covered by Austin's tale, Mary is determined to tell the police about the lifetime of degradations that led up to her homicidal rage, and Sgt. Percy Stuart, a black member of the police force, is determined to stop her. Percy is in love with Mary, but his life has been a continual compromise with the still-lingering plantation system. Nobody represents the system better than Mr. Bellfeels, the white manager of the sugar plantation at the center of the villagers' lives. When she was 13, Mary was, in essence, bartered to Bellfeels by her mother, who was his previous mistress. For 38 years, she bore his groping and his children. Though he has helped their son, Wilberforce, become a doctor, Bellfeels has never shown Mary herself any kindness. At times, Clarke loses confidence in his characters and has them deliver forced sociological truths-for instance, when Mary gives a lecture about Christopher Columbus. Most of the story, however, unfolds through brilliantly written dialogue, a rich, dancing patois that fills out the dimensions of the island's painful history and its complex caste system. Like Texaco, by Martinique writer Patrick Chamoiseau, Clarke's novel, by harnessing the genius of Creole, shows how art can don a liberating face.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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