Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet And The Painting Of The Water Lilies by Ross King (Bloomsbury, £9.99)

A portrait of the artist as an old man. In some ways, Monet’s later years are not the obvious ones to write about. Everyone knows that a young penniless painter in France, hounded by debt collectors and having to slash his paintings lest they be taken from him and sold for someone else’s profit, is the obvious story to tell. But it is when Monet is already considered the greatest painter in France, at the height of his powers, in the water lily years of the early 20th century, that he produced some of his most enduring (and largest) paintings. King’s biography deftly traces the tragic diminution of Monet’s self-styled earthly paradise in Giverny, on the banks of the Seine. Monet’s eyesight – which many thought was preternatural – fades and there are several deaths in his family. King also shows how the world-shattering politics of the time affected the painter, and documents his friendship with radical politician and surprising humourist Georges Clemenceau.

She Said He Said I Said, New Writing Scotland 35

Edited by Diana Hendry and Susie Maguire

(ASLS, £9.95)

Every year the Association for Scottish Literary Studies publishes an anthology of writing. If you are interested in the health of the nation’s literature, this is a good place to start. The submissions are judged purely on quality, and come from new and established writers. Scottish fiction has been in the emergency ward for a few years. None of the writers here provide much hope of a quick recovery in that department, although Nadine Aisha Jassat's short piece, Auntie, is a delicate meditation on feeling un-homed. Scottish poetry, on the other hand, is in fine fettle. Of the poems here, Jim Carruth’s Macintyre’s Big Horse stands out. It is an eloquent comparison of two funerals, of a man and his horse, written in the pastoral tradition. Alan MacFarlane and Andy Jackson also deserve merit for their poems about elemental disruption. Jackson’s contribution, for example, is about how a tectonic-tremor can simultaneously break up the earth and bring people together.

Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou (Serpent’s Tail, £8.99)

Moses is an orphan living in the People’s Republic of Congo in 1970. When a communist revolution disrupts the country’s political foundations, the orphanage where Moses lives becomes a training ground for young revolutionaries. The political upheaval also magnifies the megalomania of the orphanage’s director. Denied knowledge of his own origins, Moses is a collector of others' stories, which provide a way out of his own sequestered world and teaches him the extent of the director’s corruption. He escapes to Pointe-Noire where he befriends a group of young gangsters called The Merry Men and some local prostitutes. He sleeps rough and survives hand-to-mouth. As personal madness meets political insanity, the narrative becomes a giddy dance between the twin delusions of outer and inner worlds. Mabanckou is a sprightly and satirical writer. This is an excellent picaresque coming-of-age tale about a young man who tries to create a small moral world of his own within a wider universe of authoritarianism.