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Burger's Daughter Paperback – November 20, 1980

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Rosa Burger grew up in a home under constant surveillance by the South African government. Her parents were detained for their political beliefs; her father died in prison, and her mother, whose health suffered from her time in jail, eventually dies. Rosa, a white South African in her early twenties, is left the only surviving member of her family. Yet even after her parents' deaths, the history of their anti-apartheid beliefs and practices have a daily impact on her life: it seems everyone has expectations of her and the government is still watching. A quiet, private person, Rosa constantly searches her memories to find herself, to grasp this heritage that weighs her down. Over a period of several years Rosa comes to understand the impact of the South African political climate on her and how she became who she is. Take time to read this novel; the political realities it describes are complicated. The narrative style varies from straightforward storytelling to Rosa's most personal thoughts. In Burger's Daughter, Nobel Prize-winner Nadine Gordimer takes a situation most read about in newspapers and makes it real, creating a memorable story of coming to terms with circumstances over which we have little control, yet which directly affect our lives. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Holly Smith

About the Author

Nadine Gordimer is the author of eleven previous novels, as well as collections of stories and essays. She has received many awards, including the Booker Prize (for The Conservationist in 1974) and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; New edition edition (November 20, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140055932
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140055931
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By EriKa on September 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have probably by now read almost everything Gordimer has written in her long and prolific career. I have defended her writing to those who have only dabbled in one or two works and form opinions. Gordimer's works are much more complex than one can dissect in one reading of a particularly book or in a reading of only one of her books.
Burger's Daughter was surprising, as all of Gordimer's works are. Gordimer has mastered the art of voice and gives her characters complex lives and thoughts without resorting to or relying on cliché or expectation. In Burger's Daughter, the protagonist lives a life that was created for her before she was even born. Her father's political activism created circumstances into which she would be born and in which she would be expected to live, much as royalty is born and expected to follow in the monarchy's traditions.
The book traces Burger's daughter through her literal and figurative explorations to find her own voice, which can be the most difficult thing one can do in life, particularly when overshadowed by the voices of everyone around you. This work is quite subtle and although surprising (only because I am always amazed that someone has such talent for breathing life into a page) it is very typical Gordimer. Well worth the time to read it.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
Nadine Gordimer's prose can be difficult to follow at the initial read, but is full of thought-provoking allusions and is a book you will definitely think about for a long time. In this tale, Burger represents the man who was Nelson Mandela's lawyer in apartheid South Africa. Gordimer follows Burger's daughter as she copes with ties to her homeland, the complicated issue of white and black in South Africa, and with both the persecution and expectations she faces because of her name. Highly recommended!
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on August 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
Until I read this novel, years ago, I had very simplistic views of South Africa. "Burger's Daughter" changed that.
While telling the story of an individual young woman growing up in a well-known activist family and learning to discover her own identity, Gordimer also paints a broad and detailed picture of life in South Africa among those who fought apartheid while Mandela was still in prison.
It is a rich cast of characters, black and white, who find their strength and their joy in their heroic resistance to the government and their civil disobedience. Through them you learn of the complexity of the problems created by apartheid and the range of social issues rooted in a system of racial separatism.
You also learn a great deal about the mindset and courage of those who were free to leave South Africa during those dark days yet chose to stay and fight a well-armed and oppressive foe. And as modern-day South Africa has inherited the legacy of apartheid, the book is as fully relevant today as it was when it was written.
Gordimer packs a lot into this novel; it's not a page turner, but a book that you soak up slowly and deliberately. It is a solid, important book, worthy of a world-class writer and Nobel Prize winner.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mila on October 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
Having lived in the Apartheid, Nadine Gordimer knows a big deal about political and historical facts of that period. So don't we. In this book, she uses her knowledge to give us the impression of the power of history, overcoming life of normal people. But neither we leave the book with the feeling of being enriched by a talent psychological insight, nor can we avoid the frustration not to be able to follow her detailed but rambling historical picture.
The main character, Rose, is the daughter of an important anti-apartheid leader. Her childhood, her adolescence and her entire life will turn out to be completely affected by her origins. And that's fine with me, although I don't like the idea we can't change our fate. What I didn't like is that the character Rose's development is dropped little by little through the very long book and mixed up with a quantity of events regarding Apartheid and Rose's father connection with the communist party, which the average reader can't understand. There is no order in their happening and the book is not trying to explain them: they are just mentioned!
So, if you want to know more about Apartheid this is not the right book. Probably an essay would be more useful than this novel. And about Ms. Gordimer's psychological insight and characters living in the Apartheid, I would rather suggest "My Son's Story".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By PuroShaggy on January 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
"Burger's Daughter", both the book and the title character, are author Nadine Gordimer's thinly veiled fictionalization of her personal experience with South African politics and the people she knew who fought to end apartheid. Lionel Burger, who's daughter is the narrative focus of this novel, is a white activist fighting the good fight (against racism, against apartheid) who finds himself in constant legal trouble, in and out of jail. When he eventually dies, his daughter Rosa finds herself burdened with her father's life. Many expect her to be the activist her father was. Many suspect her of being the activist her father was. She is not trusted by the government. She is not trusted by certain whites. And now that the fight against apartheid has reached new heights, not trusted by many blacks.
As a character study of an individual, namely an individual who's father was renowned for his fight to end oppression, "Burger's Daughter" is a compelling tale. Rosa struggles to find her own identity apart from her activist parents; unfortunately, everyone she meets has their own idea about who or what Rosa should become.
Where the book comes short is in its depiction of South Africa and its struggles. There is a scene towards the end of the book where Rosa travels into the South African countryside and directly encounters the poverty and effects of apartheid. This is a powerful scene but unfortunately, there are two few scenes like this in the book. South Africa- the breathing, struggling, divided, passionate, racially torn country- does not come alive as it should. Gordimer's focus on Rosa is so complete that we lose sight of the historical struggle of which she is part.
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