The Polished Hoe
By Austen Clarke Imprint: Amistad, Reprint Edition (may 25, 2004
This novel, by a Canadian writer of Barbadian background, explores the brutality of plantation life, not as it was experienced in the fields but in the subtler cruelties inflicted on a worker named Mary, who, as a girl, catches the manager's eye and then becomes his favored mistress and the mother of his only son. Forced into a life of loveless "fooping" but also one of material comfort and privilege, Mary is separated both from her own people and from the white establishment, and spends decades in her "home-prison" contemplating the "ritual and arrangement of life on the Plantation." With an obvious affection for Caribbean cadence and its rum-soaked asides, Clarke unfolds Mary's story through the meandering statement she gives to the police after she has taken gruesome revenge on her "master" using the hoe of the title, the very tool that his attentions enabled her to drop.
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