Saturday 7 December 2019

'Fathers Come First' - 40 years later and it's still pertinent

Rosita Sweetman and Anne Harris pictured at the launch of 'Fathers Come First' in the Origin Gallery.
Rosita Sweetman and Anne Harris pictured at the launch of 'Fathers Come First' in the Origin Gallery. Newsdesk Newsdesk

Feminism today needed a new breath of life, a rediscovery of the old spirit, which was about life and affirmativeness and joy, said Sunday Independent editor, Anne Harris, launching the republication, last Tuesday, after 40 years, of Rosita Sweetman's novel Fathers Come First.

"This is a bittersweet occasion," she said. "Bitter - because Rosita has never had another novel published; sweet - because what seemed like an eccentric decision by the Lilliput Press to republish 40 years later, turns out to be not only brave but brilliant. The fact is it reads far better now than it did when it was first published.

"Way back then it was well received. Some consumed it as a roman a clef - which was fun. Others saw it take its rightful place in that genre patented in Ireland by Edna O'Brien - the young woman's rite of passage. Of course, it was more than either, because Rosita's voice as a novelist is distinctive and true, hitting the notes over and over, with the precision of an arrow.

"It also reads better because over the 40 years there's been a tsunami of chick literature against which to judge it - and I can say it shines like a good deed in a naughty world.

"While it would be impossible to over-emphasise the achievements of the first wave of feminism, by the women's trade union movement and the European Union - equal pay, the abolition of the marriage bar, maternity leave, contraception - young women today are crying out for a new feminism.

"This book is more pertinent than ever," she said, "because 40 years on, women are still confused about sex and destiny. And fathers still come first - in the political sphere, the artistic sphere.

"Rosita is one of those awkward people. A truth-seeker and a truth-sayer. And seeking the truth always places the individual at the heart of society. If the individual does not seek and speak their truth then it is all hopeless. Rosita did that no matter what the cost.

"What I admired most was that she never allowed fear to be an acceptable excuse for not doing the right thing - something which has become endemic in society right now."

'Fathers Come First' by Rosita Sweetman is published by Lilliput Press

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