First Thoughts

The weeks book reviews in brief


Jonathan Cape, £20

ebook, £11.39

Review: Holly McKenzie

A great deal of negative attention has been given to Dowager Empress Cixi, the woman who revolutionised the Chinese court in the 19th century. But Jung Chang seeks to give an original analysis of the Empress based on recently released documents from the stateswoman’s court.

Cixi, a Manchu-clan member’s daughter, was selected as a concubine for Emperor Xianfeng in 1851. After his death ten years later, their son became the assumed heir, however his role would be held by a board of Regents until he was of reasonable age.

Cixi had foresight of China’s future under the rule of the Regents, which was widely accepted as a doomed strategy. Cixi staged a coup and instated herself as ruler of China.

Chang’s biography shows Cixi as a thoughtful, decisive leader who pushed China into the modern world, and abolished the practice of feet-binding.


Ronnie O’Sullivan

Orion Books, £18.99

ebook £9.49

Review: Wayne Gardiner

In Ronnie O’Sullivan’s candid first book he spoke of how a troubled home life — both parents in prison, one for murder — had contributed to him going down a path of drink, drugs and depression, all while ruling the snooker world.

In this more grown-up life account, he talks at length of how running has helped him banish those demons. In fact, this book is more about running than snooker as he passionately tells of how the sport has saved him.

But while running may have solved some of his problems, he admits to having sprinted away from others, charting the breakdown of his relationship and a long and expensive battle for access to his children.

Intertwined with that is the release from prison of his father after 18 years, and his life as a snooker player which has reached new levels of brilliance after he won a fifth world title despite taking a full year off.

Running is a chaotic race through O’Sullivan’s life, but this does little to dethrone him as the people’s champion.


Douglas Coupland

William Heinemann £16.99

ebook £9.49

Review: Andy Welch

When Douglas Coupland’s Generation X: Tales For An Accelerated Culture was released in 1991, it both popularised the phrase of its title — Americans reaching adulthood in the late 1980s — and gave birth to the term McJob.

It’s difficult to imagine Worst. Person. Ever, the Canadian’s 14th novel, having similar cultural impact.

It tells the story of Raymond Gunt, a TV cameraman and one of the most unlikeable characters you’ll find in the whole post-modern genre.

He lands a job on a reality survival programme on a remote Pacific island, although it takes him half the book to get there, and by the time he has arrived, amid endless plane travel, anaphylactic shocks and more swearing than a whole frigate full of drunken sailors, it’s impossible to care what happens to the wearing Gunt at all.

More in this section

ieParenting Logo
Writers ieParenting

Our team of experts are on hand to offer advice and answer your questions here

Your digital cookbook

ieStyle Live 2021 Logo
ieStyle Live 2021 Logo

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Discover the great outdoors on Ireland's best walking trails

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up
Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd