Ross King wins $25K RBC Taylor Prize for Claude Monet biography

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Ross King has won the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize for Mad Enchantment.

The annual $25,000 prize honours the best in Canadian nonfiction.

In Mad Enchantment, King delves into the brilliant but troubled mind of Claude Monet and tells the fascinating story behind Monet's famous water lily paintings.

"There are many books on Monet, but what I wanted to do is drill down deeply into his life as a man painting these works of art at a particular point in time," King said to CBC Books after his win. "I wanted to reverse engineer his paintings... explode them in some way to figure out what makes them so remarkable."

"In this elegantly written and superbly researched book, Ross King illuminates Water Lilies and Monet as no one has before," the jury said in their citation. "Ross King brilliantly captures the furies of Monet and the enormous challenges he overcame in painting the twenty-two panels of lilies that surround L'Orangerie. An exceptional art historian, King grasps the political tempests of wartime France and his portrait of Monet's close friend, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, will be essential reading for all who want to understand the intersection of politics, nationalism, and culture in France during the First World War."

The other finalists were Matti Friedman for Pumpkinflowers, Diane Schoemperlen for This Is Not My Life, Max Eisen for By Chance Alone and Marc Raboy for Marconi.

This year's jury consisted of historian John English, journalist Ann MacMillan and novelist Colin McAdam. The jury read 101 books to determine the five finalists and the winner.

As part of winning the RBC Taylor Prize, King will select the next recipient of the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Writer Award. The prize is given to an up-and-coming Canadian writer, who will receive $10,000 and be mentored by King.

The winner of the 2016 RBC Taylor Prize was Rosemary Sullivan for her biography Stalin's Daughter.