Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Wednesday, March 05, 2003  

The regional winners of the 2003 Commonwealth Writers Prize have been announced.

Barbados-born Canada resident Austin Clarke has won the Best Book Award for the Canada and Caribbean region for his novel The Polished Hoe, while Kwame Dawes, who was born in Ghana but grew up in Jamaica, won the Best First Book Award for A Place to Hide and Other Stories.

From the CWP news release on the Canada-Caribbean winners:

"Although [Austin] Clarke has been an important writer in the region since his first stories were published, the committee felt that in [The Polished Hoe] he had moved to a new level. In an engrossing story of love, hate, oppression and revenge, Clarke embraces the history of Bimshire (a thinly disguised Barbados) and evokes the time of slavery and of field labour which marked women, in particular, placing the reader in the position of both interpreter and judge. How should one assess the story of the distinguished elderly mistress of the sugar plantation manager, Mr Bellfeels? In the Great House of the plantation, Mary-Mathilda confesses the murder of Mr Bellfeels to a policeman she has known all her life and who has always been attracted to her, despite the danger."

I tried to read The Polished Hoe some time ago, for review purposes. I got about halfway through and gave up. I can honestly say I found it overwhelmingly tedious and boring, with the pace of a crippled snail; critics of the same disposition have labelled it variously as "unreadable" and "a disaster".

But it has won the CWP, in addition to the Giller (Canada's top literary prize) so maybe I will give it another go, and attempt a thorough critiquing. But that'll have to wait until I've finished Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan, the novel I'm currently reading and which, incidentally, was the 2002 Overall Winner of the CWP.

posted by Jonathan | 8:43 AM 0 comments


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