The readers have voted.
I gave you the choice of 10 books, five fiction and as many non-fiction titles. Voting was fierce and ferocious, with two books, the Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, and the bestselling memoir Prisoner of Tehran, by Marina Nemat, fighting it out for top spot.
For days, one or the other was in the lead, but at the close of the poll the winner was clear: Prisoner of Tehran captured 35 per cent of the vote. The Sense of an Ending came second with 27 per cent, followed by The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje.
Nemat, who was born in Iran in 1965, was arrested when she was 16 in the violent and repressive aftermath of the Islamic Revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. She spent more than two years in the notorious Evin Prison, where she was tortured and threatened with execution. After her release, she emigrated to Canada with her family in 1991.
Her memoir, Prisoner of Tehran, documents her life before, during and after her imprisonment. It was published by Penguin Canada in April, 2007, and since then in more than a score of other countries. It continues to be an international bestseller.
This year, the book was one of five non-fiction titles in contention on Canada Reads on CBC Radio. One of the judges, family lawyer Anne-France Goldwater, accused Nemat of being untruthful in her memoir on the first day of the competition, by saying: “Marina Nemat – and it’s known to other prisoners; other prisoners who shared her experience – tells a story that’s not true and you can tell it’s not true when you read it.” Many listeners were outraged.
Now, you have the chance to read the book for yourself and discuss it on the online book club. Spend the next two weeks reading and thinking about the memoir. I will post articles and links to the book and the author. We will reconvene on Monday, March. 5, but I will be checking into the book-club blog in the meantime.