When Mary Mathilda, an elderly woman living in the West Indian island of Bimshire, calls the police to confess to a murder, the result is a shattering all-night vigil that brings together elements of the African past and the tragedy of colonialism in one epic sweep.
As the novel opens, Mary is giving her statement of confession to Sargeant, a policeman she has known all her life. The man she claims to have murdered is Mr. Bellfeels, the powerful manager of the sugar plantation that dominates the lives of the village, and for whom she has worked for more than thirty years as field labourer, kitchen help and maid.
Eventually, Mary became Mr. Bellfeels’ mistress, kept in good financial status in a Great House on the plantation, and the mother of his only son, Wilberforce, a successful doctor on the island.
To complicate matters further, as Sargeant takes down Mary’s statement it becomes evident that he has long harboured a secret desire for her.
Set on the post-colonial West Indian island of Bimshire in the thirties and forties, 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 characterised by slavery.
Infused with Joycean overtones, Austin Clarke’s new novel is a literary masterpiece that evokes the power of memory and the indomitable strength of the human spirit.Winner of the Commonweath Prize 2003 and Canada’s 2002