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A beautiful account of an era of cruelty

The Dog Eaters

Marita de Sterck

'The Dog Eaters' describes the plight of ordinary citizens during WWI, as seen through the eyes of Victor, the epileptic 17-year-old son of a notary. He is not allowed to go outside, but this time he has to: his dog has gone missing and, during the 1917 winter of starvation, every animal is in danger.

A stunning young adult novel
NRC Handelsblad

The twilight area between life and death into which Victor disappears during an epileptic fit is a superb metaphor for the war that’s far away and yet still saturates everyday life. The Dog Eaters reads like a historical adventure story, a grisly fairy tale, and a coming-of-age novel. Victor encounters figures who appear to have stepped straight out of a folktale when he goes out alone for the first time, explores the 'butter-soft warmth' of a woman and gets to know the real world outside.

This hard-boiled book is written in direct, earthy language. The author’s thorough research provides the reader with a vast wealth of information. With its mythical atmosphere and almost unbearable tension, this is an unforgettable novel for readers of all ages.

Cleverly composed and thoroughly researched
De Morgen
The lush Flemish language is a pleasure to read
Trouw
'A beautiful account of an era of cruelty'
Veerle Vanden Bosch, editor in chief of the literary supplement of Flemish newspaper De Standaard

'A dog does not lie. And a dog rarely kills people in cold blood. “It was people who shot defenceless soldiers who were holding white flags,” writes Marita de Sterck in the first pages of The Dog Eaters.

It is the wartime winter of 1917, and the dog eaters of the title are the starving, impoverished and disease-ridden inhabitants of the Rupelstreek, a Belgian region to the south of Antwerp. The struggle to survive is desperately hard even away from the fighting at the front, and not everyone plays fair. In war there are no rules, and when it comes down to it, people can be worse than animals – a theme that pervades this whole book.

It is impressive to see how Marita de Sterck intertwines the darkest pages of our history with ancient folk tales and a coming-of-age story. This makes The Dog Eaters a fierce and raw book that grips the reader with all its unvarnished directness, and an impressive portrait of a poor and suffering region in wartime. This is a beautifully written account of an era of cruelty.'