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Burger's Daughter

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  1,846 ratings  ·  185 reviews
As a depiction of South Africa, this novel is more revealing than a thousand news dispatches as it tells the story of a young woman cast in the role of a young revolutionary, trying to uphold a heritage handed on by martyred parents while carving out a sense of one's self.
Paperback, 361 pages
Published November 20th 1980 by Penguin Group (first published 1979)
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Average rating 3.54  · 
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 ·  1,846 ratings  ·  185 reviews

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What would you do if you were me? What is to be done?
Don't read this if you don't like politics, experimental writing, breaking down academic jargon to the bare necessities, candid displays of brutality and bodily functions of the female sort, and complete and utter lack of book-bound solutions for book-invoked problems. For those of you who require more holistic commitment and saviourless methodologies than the likes of 1984 and Brave New World can offer, read on.
...he won't scruple to i
Nov 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
I wanted to enjoy this so much more than I did. A story nearly strangled by apartheid written by an author with an indisputable knack for conveying tension in its many forms showed so much promise. But the stream of consciousness had me reading in circles. Even the dialogue became tedious as irregular punctuation obscured the sequence of speakers. The protagonist was too detached from all the other characters for my taste, preventing me from empathizing or understanding anyone in any profound se ...more
This book gives a reader two things—a description of life in South Africa during the 1960s and 1970s and a study of a white Afrikaaner female raised by parents martyred in their fight for the anti-apartheid movement. Will her parents’ goals, aspirations and battles become hers?

The description of life is well drawn. The central protagonist’s search to find herself is ordinary, probably because I never came to feel attached to her as a person.

While I do like Nadine Gordimer’s descriptive prose de
Thank god this book is over. It was fascinating as a work of historical fiction on apartheid-era South Africa, and as a character sketch of someone who was born into the upper echelons of White anti-apartheid society but who lacked her own strong convictions on the topic. Otherwise, Nadine Gordimer lost me completely with her stream-of-consciousness-style narration and lack of a coherent plot. I can appreciate her beautiful use of language, but 360 pages of not understanding what’s going on tend ...more
Nana Fredua-Agyeman
Nadine Gordimer's Burger's Daughter is not an easy read. The author, probably mirrored the lives of the people: natives and the whites who were against the apartheid system at the time, in her prose. For reading this seemingly melancholic novel, the reader would feel the desolation, the destruction, the emotional torture, the emasculation of ideas and of works, the impotency of one filled with verve without a vent or valve. The reader would go through several tortuous moments, reflecting the liv ...more
May 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Aspiring activists
At what point do you choose what you are already born into? Gordimer explores this puzzle in her densely lyrical novel, spinning out a fictional life for a fictional daughter of a fictional white anti-apartheid activist in 1970s South Africa. The daughter's ambivalence about having been born into a family committed to the cause, her clear-eyed assessments of the tensions and fault lines within the movement, and her memories of what happens to a family constantly struggling against society are wh ...more
Gisela Hafezparast
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Nadine Gordimer is one of my favourite writers, as she manages to describe and explain difficult issues and situations not only around the apartheid struggle in South Africa, but also the difficulty of life in the country for South Africans sympathetic or active in the struggle. Her books are very political, but they do not preach or force her opinion on you. Especially in this book her writing reminds me of one of Simone de Beauvoir describing her life.

In Burger's Daughter Gordimer describes ho
Brenda C Kayne
Oct 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, african
A painful story of a South African woman whose life depicts the ultra-discomfort of being between-a-rock-and-a-hard place. Her dilemma is much more excruciating than most people. She must make the decision as a young adult to follow in the harrowing and often humiliating life of her deceased, activist parents or whether to reside in the safer world of the intellectual expatriot.

Before one can judge her should she choose the safer less altruistic route, the devastating social structures of arpar
Constance Devanthery-Lewis
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this book many years ago when it was first published. I myself was coming of age, though on the other side of the world from South Africa, and the power and rawness of the story, along with the writing, rocked my world. Recently I saw the book on a used bookshelf and challenged myself to read it again. I wondered whether it would still move and impress me. The answer is yes, and then some. This book is a masterpiece. It not only provides a riveting, first-person account of life in the Sou ...more
A story set in South Africa in the sixties and seventies and tells the story of Rosa Burger, daughter of Lionel Burger. Rosa’s parents were Afrikaner Marxists and political activists who opposed apartheid. Rosa loses both her parents to the political struggle. Her dad died in prison. Rosa has no identity of her own and she has no private life. Everything for Rosa is “because I am my father’s daughter” pg 62. He role is imprinted on her. The book explores the impact of apartheid on the people of ...more
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
this book is incredibly dense, but beautifully written, once you adapt to gordimer's style, which she forces you to do with her brutal talent.

it's a good read for someone constantly struggling with the question of what to do with social injustice, especially when it is legally sanctioned--of how to reconcile the personal and political, or how to admit all of your contradictory parts.
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
As much as I love Gordimer's stories and her writing, this book was a task to finish. Her style of writing in this one made it difficult to understand even though the book and its plot had great potential. I had a hard time finishing it just for the sake of finishing it.
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: lit, book-club
Impenetrable is the best way to describe this book. The dialogue, the political events, even the characters' motivations. I often found that I had read whole paragraphs without really understanding the meaning. Who is talking? Why are they saying this? What South African political party are they describing? I hope the book club discussion sheds some light on this one for me!! :) Without it, I'm afraid that this book didn't really speak to me, despite the worthy plot.
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
While I can certainly appreciate Nadine Gordimer's talent, it was not a pleasant experience to read this novel. Maybe this novel disappointed me because it had been on my to read list for a few years. My many issues with this novel include: 1: the confusing style Gordimer used for writing this novel. Normally I don't have an issue going back and forth from third person to first, but the confusing part was Rosa addressing Conrad in her part of the narrative. It was difficult to follow, and Conrad ...more
Apr 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 re
May 22, 2020 rated it liked it
Burger's Daughter, written by Nadine Gordimer, is by far one of Gordimer's most political books. This story breaks so many typical writing boundaries- the writing is unapologetically raw and delves deep into the seriously brutal truth that was occuring during the South African apartheid.
Rosa Burger, the main character, struggles with the life that her parents had created. Her parents were white anti-apartheid activists, and were foundational for the movement. She grew up immersed in a political
Nadia Zeemeeuw
How many books which gave me no joy but mostly a strong headache I’ve read in my life? Quite a lot in my time in high school and in university. They all were about struggle for better life, bloody regimes, communists etc. You understand all importance of them, make yourself appreciate some powerful parts but you are absolutely certain you will never ever pick these books up again. I sad to admit “Burger’s Daughter” is such a book for me. What makes it even harder is its punctuation. Yes, English ...more
The story of Rosa Burger, daughter of the famous anti-apartheid activist Lionel Burger, who seeks her way (both personally and politically) in South Africa under apartheid following the arrests and deaths of her parents. A coming of age story of a girl who is followed in every step by the legacy of her father. While the mood of the time is neatly painted and the plot twist is certainly worth it, the writing style of Gordimer is very dense and the story develops so slow that this novel will not b ...more
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lily Fair
Based in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1974 Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer follows a story based off of true-events Gordimer witnessed during her time in South Africa. The protagonist, Rosa, is 26 and is the daughter of famous politician Lionel Burger. Lionel Burger was an anti-apartheid white man who got sentenced to life in prison for treason. Three years into the sentence, Lionel dies, leaving Rosa orphaned at the age of 26. Her mother had died when she was 14, also in prison at the tim ...more
Jamie  R
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it
I have feelings about this book. On the one hand, it took a lot of mental energy to navigate the syntax, the back-and-forth between first- and third-person narrator, and who was speaking when. At the same time, there are moments of such beauty and depth that would literally make me screech to a halt. I had some historical context from Mandela’s autobiography, which was really helpful. I’m really glad I read it, and I feel like there’s a lot here - I just feel like I’d have to reread it several t ...more
May 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: classics
I had to read this book for my Contemporary Novel class at school. With that being said, I had never heard of the book before and probably would've never read this book otherwise. The book was all right and was a very well-thought out book, but it did a little too much that came off as pretentious to me, and ultimately made the book a difficult read when it really didn't have to be. I'm not going to bother with a cut, as this review won't be very long and will remain spoiler-free.

One of the firs
Jul 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Now I understand why Gordimer was awarded the Nobel for literature.

It is the mid-1970s. Rosa Burger is the grown daughter of white South African Communist activists, has grown up surrounded by their ideals and their actions to build solidarity between blacks and whites to bring down the Apartheid regime; she has lived only among those who live for the cause, the Future. After her parents die (her mother of cancer, her father in prison) Rosa is left to try for the first time to define herself. Th
Jim Leckband
Dec 16, 2013 rated it liked it
One of the saddest books I've read in a long time - but one that has a happier ending after the last page than the one Gordimer wrote. The futility of liberal whites and blacks in apartheid-era South Africa to change the oppression permeates all through the book.

Change finally did come to South Africa, but I'm sure that people in the 70's had no idea how it could come. From terrorism? From civil unrest and disobedience? From a coup? From a communist overthrow? The last option that it would be go
Nov 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: lbc-book-club-1
This is one of those books that I really appreciate now that I'm done but didn't really enjoy reading. It starts out very slow and if you like a lot of action, then it doesn't improve, but it gets more compelling, and it became more enjoyable to read once I got used to the narrative switching from first person to third person without much warning and the hard-to-follow tangents. And in discussing the book with my boo club, I was able to see it as a fascinating and beautifully written account of ...more
I am on the fence with this book - it contains some great perceptive comments and narratives that are hallmarks of Gordimer, but the book seems to flow in such an impersonal and dispassionate manner that it is hard to connect with it. I couldn’t discern which side does Burger’s Daughter falls in the apartheid strife - except that she seems to feel that this is not a fight to be led by the whites - a sentiment often echoed by her countrymen, and one that I agree with.
Something that I have found
Alice Cuprill
Mar 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book was a revelation. I had not read Nadine Gordimer before and will be picking up her other works. The novel tells the story of a young White woman growing up in apartheid South Africa. She is the daughter of anti-apartheid activists and while the book exposes the brutality of that system, it is really a novel about the search for identity by a person about whom all things are presumed. No one asks her what she really believes, what she is willing to give up or for whom, instead the gover ...more
Dec 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
This was a disappointment. I had high expectations, because Gordimer is a Nobelpricewinner and any book on the apartheidsregime in South Africa must be interesting. But after 100 pages, I quit reading. The story on Rosa Burger, daughter of white communist activists against apartheid, did not appeal to me. I just could't get into the story: the writing was too dispassionate and also difficult by the continuous shifting of perspectives and time. I guess Gordimer tried to present to us the difficul ...more
May 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is the story of Rosa Burger, a young woman raised by political dissidents in apartheid South Africa, who now must decide what role she will play in her country. Gordimer is the grand dame of modern, white South African writers, and this is my favorite of her novels. The narrative style could be a bit disconcerting for some because it varies from straightforward to stream of consciousness, but the personal dilemma at the core of it - choosing between a private life or one that is political i ...more
Jan 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
During the first half of the book I found it difficult to maintain interest. The narrative seemed dated and hasn't held up well. But I'm glad I kept reading. The second half was much more engaging and main character matures in a way that negates my criticism of the first half of the book.
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Goodreads Librari...: Corrections 3 20 Jan 13, 2019 08:17AM  
Reading 1001: Burger's Daughter by Nadine Gordimer 2 18 Jan 31, 2018 07:15AM  
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Nadine Gordimer was a South African writer, political activist, and recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was recognized as a woman "who through her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity".

Gordimer's writing dealt with moral and racial issues, particularly apartheid in South Africa. Under that regime, works such as Burger

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