Born in Dover, England; daughter of Thomas George (a salvage diver) and Nellie (a homemaker) Swindells; married Boris Sokolsky (a coffee planter in the Belgian Congo; marriage ended); married Jacobus Smit (a wheat farmer; marriage ended); married Adolph Ferretti Martola Palma (an artist; marriage ended); married Klaus Arthur Friedland (a chartered accountant; marriage ended); children: Ivan Sokolsky, Geraldine (Jenni) Friedland. Education: Attended the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, entertaining, theatre, music, travel.
Home—Cape Town, South Africa.
Writer, editor, and novelist. Worked as a sub-editor with the Daily Mirror Group, London, England, for one year; served as an editor at Thompsons Newspapers, Cape Town, South Africa, for two years; self-employed publisher and managing editor for twenty years for publications including Business Efficiency, Business Week (a South African financial newspaper), and Expansion.
Authors Guild, Authors League of America, PEN.
Summer Harvest, Macdonald (London, England), 1983, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1984.
Song of the Wind, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1985.
Shadows on the Snow, Macdonald (London, England), 1987.
The Corsican Woman, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Edelweiss, Little, Brown (London, England), 1993.
The Sentinel, Little, Brown (London, England), 1994.
Harvesting the Past, Little, Brown (London, England), 1995.
Snakes and Ladders, Little, Brown (London, England), 1997.
Sunstroke, Little, Brown (London, England), 1998.
Winners and Losers, Little, Brown (London, England), 1999.
Twisted Things, Allison & Busby (London, England), 2003.
Ripples on a Pond, Allison & Busby (London, England), 2005.
Hot Ice, Allison & Busby (London, England), 2006.
Swindells's novels have been translated into Swedish, French, Dutch, Italian, German, and Hebrew. Swindells's papers are housed in the Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University.
Madge Swindells is an English-born romance novelist who lives and works in South Africa. Prior to her success as an author, she worked as a journalist for more than two decades, first as a newspaper editor and later as the head of a successful magazine publishing company. During these years, Swindells's two attempts at a novel each met with rejection. Yet when one of her ventures, a sports trading magazine, became successful enough on its own to allow her to hire her own replacement, she concentrated on writing novels full-time, and this time her efforts yielded success.
Swindells's first book, Summer Harvest, was published in 1983 to positive reviews that evoked comparisons to The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough's epic romance saga of Australia. Summer Harvest opens in 1938 in rural South Africa, where heroine Anna van Achtenburgh defies her wealthy family and marries a humble farmer. She eventually triumphs over her reduced circumstances, finding both love and financial success. In a Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers essay on Swindells, Ferelith Hordon noted that Swindells's "women, especially the female protagonists, are self-willed, independent, intelligent, assertive, and beautiful, and are seen as succeeding in male-dominated areas of endeavour."
In her second novel, 1985's Song of the Wind, Swindells again opens her story just as the events of World War II are underway. Her Czechoslovakian heroine, Marika Magos, has lost her parents in the war and has been adopted by a Jewish couple in South Africa. A few years later, Marika falls in love with a mysterious patient in a hospital; it turns out he is German, though Marika believes him to be a Swiss citizen named Gunter. When Marika becomes pregnant with the man's child, a jealous nurse informs the Nazi-hating Marika that her lover's name is not Gunter but the German Hans; devastated, Marika flees to England. Years later, she has become a successful fur designer, and Gunter/Hans becomes the focus of a war-crimes trial. Though they have occasionally reunited—albeit unsuccessfully—the trial brings the couple together in a surprising way. Marika's desire for avenging her parents' murder in Song of the Wind is typical of Swindells's methods, according to Hordon. "It is desire for revenge that directs Swindells's characters and determines their actions and reactions," the critic noted in her Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers essay.
Swindells followed with 1988's The Corsican Woman. Sybilia, the heroine of the author's fourth novel, is forced into marriage as a young woman, works as a spy against the Nazis during their occupation of Corsica during World War II, and later bears an illegitimate child after her husband's death. She is ostracized by the conservative townspeople of her Mediterranean isle. Again, revenge and courtroom drama bring the narrative to a triumphant conclusion for the heroine, in a "suspenseful tale" that a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted contained both "a cinematic urgency and vividness."
In Ripples on a Pond, Swindells explores how a terrible secret that has been carefully concealed for years ultimately emerges to have a significant effect on the lives of the people involved. Thirty years prior, the residents of the lovely, affluent village of Temple Minnis conspired to commit and then hide a murder. In the present, Melissa, a local novelist, has discovered that she has a terminal illness. She decides to write a book about the murder to relieve her guilt. In doing so, she incriminates numerous other village residents who were involved in the crime. Elsewhere in the village, Simon Shepherd cultivates the virtues and characteristics of an English gentleman farmer, even as his marriage is crumbling, his wife is cheating on him, and his daughter rebels against him by becoming involved with a group of animal-rights activists. By chance, Simon meets Bela, a woman who has surreptitiously pitched a tent for the night on his property. Unexpectedly, he falls in love with her. Despite the pleasure of his new emotional awakening, Simon's life is jolted when a tragic event occurs on the farm, he discovers his wife's infidelity, and his daughter announces that she is leaving home as soon as possible. Redemption arrives in the unexpected form of a charismatic but unusual African man, sent as the village's replacement vicar. Library Journal reviewer Rex E. Klett remarked favorably on the novel's "fine narrative, strong characterizations," and "layered plot," while Betsy L. Hogan, writing in Reviewer's Bookwatch, commended Swindells for her "great storytelling skill and an original imagination."
Swindells told CA that although she enjoys writing, her success has made it a "more serious business with deadlines to be met, and responsibilities to publishers, distributors, and readers." She believes that a novel's primary function is to entertain: "It is not simply a soapbox for the author's own personal beliefs and hobbyhorses," Swindells explained. "The story can of course have a message or a moral, but it must be an integral and natural part of the story and not contrived."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Library Journal, August 15, 2005, Rex E. Klett, review of Ripples on a Pond.
Publishers Weekly, August 19, 1988, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Corsican Woman, p. 57.
Reviewer's Bookwatch, November, 2005, Betsy L. Hogan, review of Ripples on a Pond.
Madge Swindells Home Page,http://www.madgeswindells.com (January 10, 2007).
Reviewingtheevidence.com,http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com/ (June, 2005), Lorraine Gelly, review of Ripples on a Pond.