Catherine Bush

October 28, 2014

thinking about the stories we tell about accusations

I’ve been thinking not just about the accusations circulating now but the way we respond to such accusations. I notice again and again, especially in the frenzy of first response, how people use accusations to tell their own stories, not always consciously. Our narratives about ourselves become the lens through which we respond to accusations against others, whether we’re rushing to defend the accused or support those making difficult accusations or struggling to figure out how to respond. Our stories about ourselves shape what we want to believe. We do this all the time, see others through the stories we tell about ourselves, but it becomes amplified when accusations are at stake, especially sexually charged accusations. I don’t know that we can help doing this. I can’t help doing it. I wrote a novel about this. But it seems to me a good thing to acknowledge that we’re doing it, offer up this attempt at transparency.

October 25, 2013

Accusation and Canada Reads

Accusation has just made it onto the Top 40 list. Yes, it’s a popularity contest but also a way to reach new readers. You can vote now on which novels will be the Top Ten.

The theme of the current Canada Reads is What is the one novel that could change Canada?

Accusation examines the effects that accusations have on all of us, whether they are true or false, and asks us to examine our own judgments and prejudices while telling a gripping story that links a journalist in Canada to a children’s circus in Africa and a group of asylum seekers in Australia. Sara Wheeler attempts to uncover the truth of accusations made against the Canadian founder of the circus only to find truth difficult to discern even as her own actions alter the story. This is a novel about the lives that accusations have regardless of truth and the difficulty of figuring out how to do the right thing. It brings lives in Canada into relation with lives in other parts of the world and probes questions of how we judge across race and culture, and how we attempt to see each other across the unknowable zones between us. It invites the reader to turn a lens upon herself and to navigate the complexity of lived truth.

There are such important conversations to be had about accusations both in a private and public context. We’ve all been accused, accuser, and witness to accusations against others. And so many situations are not black and white, and it’s important to bring people imaginatively into these in-between and more difficult zones in the way that good fiction can do.

Individual readers can make a difference. Please consider Accusation for your Canada Reads vote. You can vote for up to ten books and there are some fantastic novels on the list.

October 3, 2013


There’s such pleasure in having a beautiful book: cover, paper, font, all these things matter. And Goose Lane has made Accusation a very beautiful book. I have to call attention to these endpapers. Open the book and you discover these. There’s a juggler in the novel and it’s as if the papers bring his juggling to life. They’re almost like a circus.


October 1, 2013


The night before I had to give my first reading from Accusation, the book newly in my hands, I had a dream in which I was walking naked through the streetscape of my adolescence. The dream itself felt clear in its self-revelation. Bringing a novel to the world is pleasurable — and yet also, oddly, shameful. There’s an inevitable vulnerability in the risk of self-exposure, or in the risky self-exposure. Humiliation rises among a sea of other emotions. We don’t talk much about the place of shame in publication but I’d wager most writers touch it to some degree. We long to disown what we’ve written, to cast it off in case it embarrasses us, or because it embarrasses us, because we’ve put everything of ourselves into it and that’s embarrassing, because the disowning is necessary in order to move on. We don’t know what we’ve done. We don’t know how to think or speak about what we’ve done. Writer Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer has written a paper about it — well, about the relationship between publishing and shitting, and the weird commingling of pleasure and shame as something … comes out of us. After having been turned so far inward, it’s strange to face outward. All our actions on the page become visible. Moments before, in the same dream, I was clambering over a ladder stretched across the depths of a vast, dilapidated building, trying to navigate a tricky journey. No more disappearing into the text, it’s time to slip on a vulnerable body and hit the streets, the book itself a form of nakedness whatever I’m wearing.


September 29, 2013

NOW review of Accusation

The day before the launch it was lovely to wake up to word of this review by Susan G. Cole, which deftly summarizes the emotional and ethical quandaries of the novel, and notes that while documenting events can be a form of witnessing, it can lead to its own dilemmas, particularly for journalists. As another reader said to me recently, this is not only a novel about accusations but about trying to do the right thing.


“Fairy tales are almost always the stories of the powerless, of youngest sons, abandoned children, orphans.... Fairy tales are children's stories not in who they were made for but in their focus on the early stages of life, when others have power over you and you have power over no one.”

— Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby