Burger’s Daughter is a special variant of an old genre—the story of a young person’s growing up. In Rosa Burger’s case, it is the apprenticeship of the political orphan and her coming to grips with what it means in a racist society to be “named,” that is, to be under surveillance as the daughter of enemies of the state. Moreover, Rosa must decide how far she is going to continue the subversive work of Lionel Burger. It is difficult being the daughter of a man whose courage and idealism have made him a legend to both races, to foes as well as to friends.

Although the men in the novel are not denigrated as women’s oppressors, and although the perspective on male-female relationships is not tendentiously feminist, Burger’s Daughter contributes to a just vision of society by celebrating its female characters. Such harmony is partly attributable to the comradeship of Marxist cell life, in which men and women meet equally, but it is also indicative of a philosophy which respects individuals. Among Katya’s group, there are no invidious distinctions drawn between the old and the young, the male and the female, the straight and the gay. Only the mean-spirited are shunned.

After her father’s death, Rosa chooses to opt out of the Party’s work. When the Terblanches’ daughter asks Rosa to provide a duplicate key to the office where Rosa works so that the conspirators can sneak in at night and use the invaluable duplicating machine, Rosa refuses. Her decision derives from conviction, not timidity, and her decision to...

(The entire section is 642 words.)