The Woman who Fed the Dogs

By Kristien Hemmerechts

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Odette is the most hated woman in Belgium. She spends her days in jail, for being an accomplice to a horrifying offence that she was dragged into by her husband. Who is this woman? Why did she never stop him? Does she deserve a second chance, or is she an unscrupulous monster?

The Woman who Fed the Dogs is based on the true story of Michelle Martin, the ex-wife and accomplice of the killer Marc Dutroux.…
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Literary novel




Paul Vincent



Original Title

De vrouw die de honden eten gaf

Year of publication



‘As is the case with the best written of books, it is not what is said, but what is not said that makes the writing so accomplished.’—For Books’ Sake

‘A compelling narrative.’—Blake Morrison

About the author

Kristien Hemmerechts

Kristien Hemmerechts (Belgium) has an extensive body of work which includes twenty novels, multiple collections of short stories and some autobiographical essays in which she does not shy away from controversy. Hemmerechts was awarded the Flemish State Prize and the Frans Kellendonk Prize, both for her complete oeuvre. The Woman who Fed the Dogs sold over 13,000 copies in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is based on the true story of the ex-wife of the notorious murderer and sociopath Marc Dutroux. Photo: © Keke Keukelaar

Book Club Questions

Book Club Questions

  1. The novel is based on the true story of the wife of murderer and sociopath Marc Dutroux. What are the moral implications of keeping such a story in the public eye?
  2. Do you think it is correct for such a person to be the protagonist of a novel?
  3. Hemmerechts stresses that this is book is fiction, although it is based on true events. What is your opinion? Where do you think the border lies between fiction and non-fiction?
  4. Why do you think Hemmerechts wanted to write such a story? Why was she interested in this character? What did she hope to achieve?
  5. How do you feel about Odette after reading this novel? Is she to blame or is she a victim? Should she be released?
  6. Do you feel as if Odette had any control over her situation? Is there any proof of this within the text?
  7. Why do you think Odette was initially attracted to M?
  8. Could Odette’s mother have done more to help her daughter? If so, why do you think she chose not to?
  9. What do you think prevented Odette from going down to the cellar?
  10. Do you think Odette feels any remorse over her actions (or lack thereof)?
  11. What effect does the first-person perspective or monologue style have on how you experience the story?
  12. Do you trust Odette’s account of the events she describes? Why or why not?
  13. How do you feel about the role the public plays in this story? Does the public have a responsibility to behave in a particular way?
  14. Hemmerechts, in her interview Out of the Cellar says, ‘Before I embarked on this book, I thought of Martin and Dutroux as living on a different planet, the planet of evil, but they lived next door.’ How does this perspective change how we view the notions of good and evil?