Excerpt from The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Polished Hoe

By Austin Clarke

The Polished Hoe
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Jun 2003,
    480 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2004,
    480 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"Sargeant send me to get your Statement offa you before he come himself. All we know is what you say when you call, that something happen, and you want Sargeant to come, and take your Statement, first-hand, from you. We don't know what happen and we don't yet know what is the circumstances. Sargeant would look after that. He say to say he have another important assignment. I am consequently here until Sargeant comes. But Sargeant coming. . .

"Soon, I hope."

"Sargeant soon will be here."

". . . and so, what I mean by a bright night and the moon shining, is merely a comparison of my disposition towards darkness and light; something, as Wilberforce calls it, like the ironies of life. Ironies. He uses it all the time, and would say, 'Sitting down to eat food is full of ironies.' 'Life is full of ironies.' 'A full moon is full of ironies.' That is Wilberforce favourite word for it. Ironies.

"When there is a full moon, people behave strange. But tonight, with no moon at all, my behaviour was still strange, granted.

"Tonight, a Sunday, in spite of no moon, the act that I committed, however the people in this Island wish to label it, is not a act, or behaviour of a woman ruled by a full moon; nor of a woman who chooses darkness over light, to move in, or to hide her act in.

"My footprints that you say might be evidence, was, in the darkness, strong footprints, if not stronger even than my temperriment itself. And my act went along with that. I was determined. And deliberate. Because I knew what my cause was. And I had a cause.

The lights dip from their brilliance; and for just one second, it is dark in the front-house, where they are; dark, as when, long ago, the wind would run through these same windows, and brush aside the flames from the mantles of the large acetylene lamps that have Home Sweet Home printed in white letters on their polished lampshades. Just for one moment, that moment that it takes for a mouse the same colour as the carpet to steal into a corner.

But wind cannot play those tricks with the electric lighting. The two bulbs hang low, just above their heads, from two long, ugly brown electrical wires, on which, during the day, and especially late at night, flies and other bugs make their homes, and their graves; and are stuck to death.

The wind continues pushing itself through the windows, and brings on its breath the smell of flowers, poinsettia and lady-of-the-night and the strong smell of sugar-cane juice from the Factory. And the lingering intoxicating smell of burnt sugar canes; and the pungency of burnt cane trash, comes into the front-house with them ...

"From the time, way-way back, when Ma, my mother, out of need, sent me while I was still a lil girl, seven or eight, to the Plantation to work in the fields, from that time, I had a cause. And in particular from that day, when the midwife delivered Wilberforce, I have had a cause.

"And I am very sorry to have to talk this way to you, a Constable, sitting in my front-house, on a Sunday night, filling in for Sargeant, who promise me faithfully, to come later, and take my Statement.

"Incidentally, Sargeant and me, went-school together. Did you know that? He was always inquisitive. Always hunting-down answers.

And lizards which he put in cigarette boxes, as coffins, to bury them. Now, we are from two different sides of the paling. But. . ."

"How I should write-down your name, in its official status, ma'am?"

"My name is Mary-Mathilda. My full name is Mary Gertrude Mathilda. But I drop Gertrude because of my maid."

"The whole Village know your names and your surnames, ma'am. And they worships you."

"It began, this whole thing, many-many years ago, on a Sunday. A Sunday morning, close to midday, about ten-to-twelve o'clock. We were in the Church Yard of Sin-Davids Anglican Church. Near the graves and tombs and tombstones; where they buried Englishmen and sailors from Lord Horatio Nelson's fleet that went down in these waters.

From The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke. HarperCollins Publishers. Used by permission.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Take This Man
    Take This Man
    by Brando Skyhorse
    "A chorus of six men calling me Son might sound ludicrous to you, but to me it's the sound of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.