Fathers Come First

By: Rosita Sweetman

Publication Date: October 2014

(5 customer reviews)


Rosita Sweeman’s Fathers Come First is a coming-of-age classic set against a Dublin-city backdrop. Elizabeth is both gauche and perspicacious, walking the edge of her stereotypes while hobbled by the pressures of acceptance – social, physical and sexual. In a world informed by a Catholic upbringing, she wonders whether her indiscretions belong in the letterbox or the confession box.

Curious, unflinching and disarmingly honest, teenager turned twenty-something Lizzie speaks to the changes and continuities in Irish society across forty years. Fathers Come First is a novel as relevant today as when it was first published.

‘This book is more pertinent than ever, because 40 years on, women are still confused about sex and destiny. And fathers still come first – in the political sphere, the artistic sphere.’Anne Harris, The Sunday Independent.

‘Recently reissued by Lilliput to mark the book’s 40th anniversary, Sweetman’s only novel is an engaging and painfully honest account of a young woman trying to find her feet in the shifting, seedy society of seventies Dublin.‘ – The Irish Times


Rosita Sweetman has been a campaigner for women’s rights since the seventies and is the author of Fathers Come First, On Our Backs and On Our Knees. Her work regularly appears in the Irish Times.

Also available as an ebook

5 reviews for Fathers Come First

  1. Lilliput Press

    “Elizabeth O’Sullivan used to think that certain things were important, such as the church, sleeping with men, being a wife, her stepmother, growing up and the things that people said. She never thought that jobs or money were important, those things were very much seen to be man stuff. These thoughts certainly wouldn’t have been uncommon at the time of the original publication of this book in 1974, and Fathers Comes First is a remarkable book even now.

    This is a great coming-of-age story with a brilliant central character in Elizabeth. The girls at her boarding school are always making up elaborate stories about boys to outdo each other. At school they’re the Nice Girls, taught to have a sweet way about going about things and having say they want to be The Mother of a Family or a nun when they grow up.

    Religion is of course a central part of Irish life and the Church has control over all elements of society. Elizabeth has some traumatic moments, including having to run out of the confession box after being asked an inappropriate question by a priest. For Elizabeth, Protestants may as well have been from another world. The Hickeys are Protestant and her father is pleased about this as he wants her to be non sectarian.

    She quickly comes to realise that girls always being told what they ‘need’ by people, magazines, adverts and endless numbers of things. It’s a grim reality, with the girls taught how to make ladies of themselves and given instructions now to cut their toenails or shave their legs when their husband is around. Late on she’s in similar territory when receiving modelling lessons, where she’s taught how to behave in public and how to smile. She knows modelling is fake, all about being something you’re not.

    Fathers Come First tells of Elizabeth’s experiences in France, a society much different to Ireland, where people are a lot more open about their affairs and sex isn’t something that’s hidden behind closed doors. She moves among higher elements of society later, and her dealings with men make her feel that women are disposable items, to be slipped on and off at will. Her experiences in the wider world prove that Nice Girls, as they were brought up to be in school, are too naive for the wider world they’re walking into.

    This book is an absolute cracker, Elizabeth’s experiences highlight a society where the church, the education system and men are acting in a consistenly despicable fashion. The themes of the book are still so relevant today and Rosita Sweetman’s writing is so engaging that I’d hope the new version of Fathers Come First will reach a very wide audience in Ireland and beyond.” KEVIN FREEBURN

  2. Lilliput Press

    ‘Rosita Sweetman writes for and about women’ – Times Literary Supplement

  3. Lilliput Press

    ‘An intense young girl’s gradual disenchantment with men’ – Sunday Express

  4. Lilliput Press

    ‘Like a long bitchy gossip with your best friend’ – Birmingham Post

  5. Lilliput Press

    ‘Direct and devastating’ – Irish Independent

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 136 × 215 mm

October 2014



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