Margaret Penfold

Margaret Penfold




Margaret Penfold is a novelist. Her Land of Broken Promises trilogy is set in the British Mandate of Palestine between 1933 and 1948. The first novel in the trilogy, Struggling Free, won the 2007 Undiscovered Authors East Midlands prize. Margaret has also written a memoir, which she is considering putting up on Kindle. She has been a member of Leicester Writers Club since the mid-1980s.            

Margaret was born in Britain but went to Palestine in 1936 at the age of three. She spent two years in South Africa between 1943 and 1945 before going to school in Walthamstow in London. She went to Leicester University College to do a degree in Latin and a diploma in Education, where she married a fellow student. She taught in Leicester's primary schools, with 4 years set aside for child-rearing. Margaret now lives in Wigston, writing, gardening and working for the WRVS Books on Wheels Service.

Creative Work

From Maftur

Maftur was twelve when she met the boy she wanted to marry. That day, back in 1933, a khamseen was blowing over Haifa, a hot wind that could drive even the sanest person to commit grievous bodily harm. She was sitting half way up the slope of Mount Carmel on the roof of the five-storey al-Zeid family building. A clay oven protected her from the flaming sun and searing wind. The oven was used only at Ramadan, Eid and on large family occasions. The scent of pine and thyme wafted across the roof from the upper slopes of the mountain.           

She had been worrying about marriage for a whole fortnight. Ever since she had become a woman and had to wear either her hijab or school hat even indoors, except during PE lessons of course, Granny had been going on and on to her mother about sending her photograph to the marriage arranger.           

This afternoon she was escaping her uncomfortable present, obeying her father’s order to study during the holidays for at least two hours a day by reading Swallows and Amazons in the original English. No one in that book had to worry about getting married even though Susan Walker, one of its protagonists, was older than she was.           

In the shade of rainwater tanks at the far end of the roof, two of her brothers, Da’oud and Adad, were rebuilding a car engine that they had dragged in pieces from a wadi bottom, but she was engrossed in her book and their hammering and chattering failed to disturb her. Nothing could get between her and the story. Until something hit the oven and fell rustling to the floor. It was a kite, painted green with yellow diamonds.


Maftur was a minor character in Struggling Free, the introductory novel to the Land of Broken Promises trilogy, but all the while I was working on that novel she was tugging my hand willing me to write her into it just as I had for the three main protagonists, Suzanna, Patsy and Dalia. She pointed out that even before 1948 there were more Muslim Arabs in Palestine than Christian Greek Orthodox. After all, she persuaded me, she was a more typical Palestinian Arab than Suzanna. I apologised, saying that I knew Suzannah better because she was based on my childhood nursemaid. Besides, since most people I know assume that Palestinian Arab is synonymous with being Muslim, I wanted my readers to know that there was a large Christian Arab population in the British Mandate of Palestine before 1948. However, I liked Maftur so much that in the end I promised to write her a novel of her own even though it would involve considerable extra research. Since I have lived in Leicester all my adult life, my Indian Muslim friends have helped me greatly with the basic practices of Islam. But with respect to domestic life, during the Mandate period at least, Palestinian Muslims had less in common with Indian Muslims than with Palestinian Christians.


Struggling Free (out of print but available in Kindle format)

A Growing Love, Ireland’s Own, 2006

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