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The Polished Hoe - Austin Clarke

Posted by Gina Schwartz on February 9, 2011 at 12:36 PM

The Polished Hoe

The Polished Hoe is set on a plantation in Bimshire (Barbados) in time after the abolition of slavery.  While the events all take place on one particular night the story told is an eye opening account of life on the plantation, the tensions in society and the place held by women in all of it.

My Take

I lovd this story. I found it gave me chills while reading it and I was not able to read much of it in any one sitting.  Of course being from the Caribbean I had studied the slave trade and the African diaspora in the Caribbean but some of the things described in the novel are beyond comprehension in their depravity and barbarity.  By the end of the novel the reader completely sympathises with Mary Mathilda and can even wonder how come she did not do it sooner.

The circuitous nature of some parts of the novel troubled me and I was not sure what was really going on with Mary Mathilda and the Seargeant ( is it in his imagination, is it in her imagination or is it real) but I suppose these parts are more of a subplot to the rest of the novel.

Throughout the novel I was also intrigued by the treatment of Wilberforce by his father.  It was not common during slavery for a white man to acknwledge any of his illegitimate children expecially if he had a family of his own in the Great House.  Where the children were acknowledged they were bruoght to work at light duties inside the houses their fathers did not send them away to study to be doctors.  This small act of kindness on the part of Mr. Bellfeels should allow the reader to feel some compassion for him but as it is the act is too small in the fact of his overwhelmingly evil deeds toward Mary Mathilda and indeed towards all of the women in her family.

This is a must read for anyone interested in the inner workings of plantation society in the Caribbean.  It is a great novel but take it in small bits.

The Cover

Great picture - very dramatic against the black background.

Rating 4

Categories: Bookscount Reviews

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