Catherine Leroux | Imagination to combat the housing crisis

It is a strikingly topical book that Catherine Leroux offers with Glass peoplea dark, lucid and confronting fifth novel about the housing and homelessness crisis.

“I wanted it harder, this one,” explains the author in an interview. Sometimes it’s up to artists to show the little piece of light towards which we can turn. But sometimes, it can be a question addressed to society: well, let’s find it, our reason for hope. »

When Catherine Leroux began writing her book, the housing crisis was not yet what it is now. “At one point I said to myself: I have to write quickly, because reality is catching up with fiction! »

And if we do nothing, the author doesn’t see how we won’t end up with “a sea of ​​people who no longer have a home.” This is why she refuses to describe this book as a dystopia, which was born while she herself was living in fear of being evicted from her Montreal apartment.

In Glass people, we follow Sidonie, a journalist for whom the notion of truth and lies is quite elastic. For her work, she is interested in the homeless camps that spread across the city, but she will soon swell the ranks of the “unhoused” in an institution that looks a lot like a prison.

It is a novel of anticipation not very far from our present. Are there homeless camps? Yes. Do we have concrete solutions when we dismantle them? No. It would reassure us that it was a dystopia, as if it couldn’t happen in real life. But everything I say in this book, except the magic elements, there is a place in the world where it happens.

Catherine Leroux

The author recalls that the history of humanity is full of moments when orphans, the poor and beggars were locked up. The phenomenon of workhouses in Great Britain was its primary inspiration, and recalls, for example, psychiatric asylums. “People have spent their lives in there. I’m not making anything up! »

Not so long ago, images of migrant children being locked in cages in the United States haunted her. “It didn’t happen in a country at war, but here, south of the border. » She also talks about seniors who, at the start of the pandemic, were not allowed to leave their CHSLD.

“It was a huge shock for everyone to see that the state had this power. » This is another of the many levels of reading of this novel which also speaks of the inhumanity of institutions, social classes and privileges – among other things.

Mise en abyme

As Kevin Lambert did in May our joy remainwhich is pretty much on the same theme, Catherine Leroux gave voice to an imperfect and not particularly likeable protagonist.

“I don’t want people to think I copied from Kevin, my book was already finished when he released his! Our novels are different, but we both wanted to feature a character who is ambiguous in relation to what is happening. »

Sidonie’s contradictions are in fact those that inhabit the middle class in general, and we can completely identify with her in her fall.

We are all potentially one step away from a divorce, a serious illness, a burn-out, an eviction, a bad luck of finding ourselves not on the street, but not far away.

Catherine Leroux

In this fifth novel, the generally secretive author reveals a lot, particularly in a final chapter in the form of a writing diary, where elements of her life take us back to scenes from the novel in an interesting mise en abyme.

But be careful: even there, true and false are not always easy to separate. She smiles. “I’d rather not say too much about it! » This is because beyond its narrative framework, Glass people is also a book about writing.

“The issue of the housing crisis was almost incidental at the start of the project. I wanted to write a book about lies, truth and fiction. That’s why I wanted characters who lie, a state that lies, media that lie, conspiracy theories that confuse the game, people who lie to themselves. »


Catherine Leroux’s previous novel, The future, has just won the Canada Reads competition in its English translation (the English version of Combat des livres) on the CBC, four years after its release in French. Even if this longevity has been exacerbated by the pandemic, which delayed its publication in English, she likes not to be the one who achieves the most resounding successes, but whose books endure. “It’s a fire that burns for a long time. I almost like it better. »

The 44-year-old author wishes the same life to Glass people, and while she always tries to keep her expectations modest, she admits to being “full of hope.” “I hope it resonates. »

We are not worried: from book to book, Catherine Leroux deploys her rich and ample writing to the benefit of a depth that cannot be denied. She finds it important to use her voice appropriately, “I always have to go where there is substance, where it is dense”. And she continues to believe in the power of fiction, which can accurately tell the truth and sometimes even change the world.

“Many of our collective failures are also failures of imagination. It’s a muscle that fiction allows you to exercise. Not just for those who write, but for those who read too. »

In bookstores April 2

Glass people

Glass people


288 pages

Who is Catherine Leroux?

  • Catherine Leroux was a journalist before launching her first novel in 2011, Walking in the forestwhich was a finalist for the Booksellers Prize.
  • His next books, The common wall, Madame Victoria And The futurehave all received different awards, and the English translation of Party wall was even a finalist for the prestigious Giller Prize.
  • The author is also a translator of numerous novels, including We who were nothing by Madeleine Thien, and editor at Alto, which also publishes her books. Glass people is his fifth novel.


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