The Polished Hoe

Austin Clarke's novel about an elderly woman who confesses to killing a plantation owner won the Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Trillium Book Award.

Austin Clarke

When an elderly Bimshire village woman calls the police to confess to a murder, the result is a shattering all-night vigil that brings together elements of the African diaspora in one epic sweep. Set on the post-colonial West Indian island of Bimshire in 1952, The Polished Hoe unravels over the course of 24 hours, but spans the lifetime of one woman and the collective experience of a society informed by slavery. (From Dundurn)

The Polished Hoe won the 2002 Giller Prize, the 2003 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for best book overall and the 2003 Trillium Book Award.

Read an excerpt | Author interviews | More about this book

From the book

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 Dundurn.

Author interviews

Austin Clarke, a frank and thoughtful critic

3 years ago
Duration 7:21
A young Austin Clarke speaks with the CBC's Anna Cameron.
We pay tribute to the Giller Prize-winning author, who passed away on June 26, by posting his Proust Questionnaire, which first aired in 2009.

More from this book

Stephen Marche on The Hunger of the Wolf - Dave Ritter on The Great Gatsby -Donna Bailey Nurse on Austin Clarke at 80 - Susan Philpott on Blown Red - Joel Thomas Hynes on his day job cutting cod tongues - Roch Carrier answers the Proust Questionnaire