The Polished Hoe

Austin Clarke

The Polished Hoe

In Bimshire in the West Indies in 1952, an elderly woman confesses to killing a plantation owner. As Mary-Matilda, the confessor, shares her story with the local police sargeant over the course of one long night, what emerges is an unforgettable portrait of the legacy of colonialism. The Polished Hoe is a powerfully affecting, intimate story, but it also has an epic sweep.

The Polished Hoe won the 2002 Scotiabank Giller Prize, the 2003 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book Overall and the 2003 Trillium Book Award.


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

Tonight the thirteenth, a Sunday, in spite of no moon, the act that I committed, however the people in the 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 than 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.

From The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke ©2002. Published by Thomas Allen Publishers.