Dutch Language Blog

Book Review: The Woman who Fed the Dogs Posted by on Jun 29, 2016 in News

“The Woman who Fed the Dogs” or in Dutch De vrouw die de honden te eten gaf by Kristien Hemmerechts is my latest Dutch-language read and one that I also struggled with (for another struggling read, please read my previous book review). The novel is based on the true story of the wife of murderer and sociopath Marc Dutroux, and from what I hear, this was a very very famous case in the Netherlands and Belgium.


Kristien Hemmerechts is a Belgian writer from the Vlaamse regio in Belgium. She debuted as a writer in 1986 with three short stories which were published in English. Her first Dutch-language novel was Een zuil van zout uit published in 1987. With this novel, Hemmerechts won several awards. She writes novels, short stories, travel stories and essays as well as plays and short films.

De vrouw die de honden te eten gaf is a story that, from what I gathered after I mentioned the basic story plot to a few friends and family, people quickly remember from the news. Marc Dutroux and his wife (now ex-wife) have been labeled the monsters of Belgium after police arrested them. Marc Dutroux was tried and convicted for the kidnapping, abuse and rape of six young girls, two of which he murdered. Michelle Martin, Dutroux’s wife, was convicted of being his accomplice. While Dutroux was in jail for another crime, Martin knew about the kidnapped girls and let them starve. Dutroux is still in jail and Martin was released in 2012.  The following documentary explains the events surrounding the kidnapping of the young girls, the arrest of Dutroux and Martin, as well as the trial.

The novel by Hemmerechts is based on the true story of Michelle Martin, but it is a fictional novel. De vrouw die de honden te eten gaf is written in the perspective of Martin while she is in jail. The fictional Martin narrates her life with her mom after her father’s death, how she met M (the way she refers to Marc Dutroux), and about the abuse. The story is gruesome because of the abuse the fictional Martin describes and because of M’s crimes. The way Hemmerechts narrates Martin’s life plays on the reader’s empathy and hate all at the same time. You cannot help but feel for this woman who was abused by her husband, and yet you cannot forget that she could have saved those girls in the basement.

I highly commend the work of Kristien Hemmerechts for taking on a very ambitious project: making Belgium’s monster a human. The narration flows while story keeps you stupefied with the horror of everything. The following is an interview with Kristien Hemmerechts:


Have you read De vrouw die de honden te eten gaf? 

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!