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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the fair weathered reader!, 7 July 2012
This review is from: The Polished Hoe (Paperback)
I'm a big fan of Black, African and Caribbean literature- and this book just opened the doors of curiousity into what colonial life was like in the "colonies"- Barbados in particular. It is the story of the life of a woman, whose voice had been silenced and life path chosen without her consent- until "the act". It is then when she found her voice to express how she felt as a "Kip woman" to service her father for the better part of 50 years. Mary Matilda lived a privildeged life of sorts- her and her son were well provided for and she obtained respect and position as the main character of this book as the mistress of Mr. Bellfeels- so much so that she was also called Misses Bellfeels- along with the daughters and wife of Mr. Bellfeels- which in and of itself is one of the full circle ways of the author's indication of her true biological identity.
It was a looong read- no doubt and written in lots of dialect, however it described a time that is nowadays forgotten- buried but its reprecussions are what shapes the world and indeed the caribbean today and for decades to come.

Other reviews have described the book in detail, so I will not do the same, however if you are looking for a book to expand your mind and details the shaping of the caribbean (Barbados-which is still considered "little England) then this is a great starting point. It is very much a "read between the lines" book- with lots of seemingly obvious presumptions left to the reader to determine and may not be an easy read for some-as it switches prospectives without warning which can make it a bit hard to follow at times, but a very valuable work in so many subtle ways. It has opened a big door for my exploring other caribbean authors thoughout the caribbean- as a work of "faction". A good read,definitely not one to be dismissed, but not for the faint hearted. I would definitely explore other works of Austin Clark.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 9 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: The Polished Hoe (Paperback)
This is not usually the type of book that I would read, but the title and plot intrigued me. Once I started, I could not put it down. Fantastic through and through. Well recommended.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary novel, 29 Mar. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Polished Hoe (Paperback)
A long, langorous account of marvellous ambition. Though the time frame is a single night, the novel seems to embrace the whole history of a thinly disguised Barbados. The voice of Miss Mary-Mathilda is wonderfully realized, the rhythms reverberating in your head long after you put the book down. Thoroughly deserves all the prizes it's won.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intense read, 27 Feb. 2009
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MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Polished Hoe (Paperback)
The Polished Hoe is an intense read. Most of the novel is the form of a dialogue between Mary Mathilda, the mistress of Mr Bellfeels and the Sergeant. It is implied that Mary-Mathilda has killed Mr Bellfeels and called the police to confess, although the exact circumstances remain fairly obscure.

What follows is a claustrophobic analysis of history, race and slavery in Bimshire (Barbados). The issues are complex, and social status seems to depend on the exact racial mix - and slavery having led to few people having exclusively black heritage or exclusively white heritage. We assume that Mary-Mathilda is black, and we assume that Mr Bellfeels is white, but these assumptions are challenged as the discourse unfolds. Secret after secret comes pouring out. Bimshire has been a seething pot of discontent, resentment and double standards and the lid is taken off.

Much of the narrative is timeless - it feels as though it might as well have been set in the 1850s as in the 1950s such is the enduring power of the departed white ruling class; the prejudice; the inequality in society. In this context, the Sergeant is torn between his duty as a policeman to solve crime and bring perpetrators to court; and his duty to his people - the people of African heritage - who are fighting against decades, centuries even, of injustice. Meanwhile, we are reminded that across the water in the USA, segregation was alive and well.

The novel is told in strong Bimshire patois, and this can be a little offputting, although one does become acclimatized to it. What is more disturbing, perhaps, is realizing ones own prejudices as one imagines that the patois is a sign of unsophisticated people. In truth, the philosophical concepts that Mary-Mathilda and the Sergeant cover are very complex and the arguments, although set out in patois, are rigorous.

This is an intense, claustrophobic read. It isn't quick. It isn't a page turner. It's like a James Kelman of the Caribbean. But it does pose profound questions and does offer real insight into the legacy of white colonialism.
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The Polished Hoe
The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke (Paperback - 1 Mar. 2004)
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