The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old.

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About the Book

‘Another year and I still don’t like old people. Me? I am 83 years old.’

Hendrik Groen may be old, but he is far from dead and isn’t planning to be buried any time soon. Granted, his daily strolls are getting shorter because his legs are no longer willing and he had to visit his doctor more than he’d like. Technically speaking he is … elderly. But surely there is more to life at his age than weak tea and potted geraniums?

Hendrik sets out to write an exposé: a year in the life of his care home in Amsterdam, revealing all its ups and downs – not least his new endeavour the anarchic Old-But-Not Dead Club. And when Eefje moves in – the woman Hendrik has always longed for – he polishes his shoes (and his teeth), grooms what’s left of his hair and attempts to make something of the life he has left, with hilarious, tender and devastating consequences.

The indomitable Hendrik Groen – Holland’s unlikeliest hero – has become a cultural phenomenon in his native Netherlands and now he and his famously anonymous creator are conquering the globe. A major Dutch bestseller, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen will not only delight older readers with its wit and relevance, but will charm and inspire those who have years to go before their own expiry date.

My Review

Likened to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Hendrik Groen’s diary is all about loyalty, friendship and tolerance. Or at times intolerance. Hendrik is bored with existence. He is fed up of listening to people discussing their various ailments in the ‘conversation room’, the communal area in the residential home he lives in.
His closest friend, Evert provides laughter, usually by upsetting the other people who they live with in the home. They decide to get together with a few other close friends and take it in turns to plan days out. They call themselves the Old but Not Dead Club. Much of their pleasure comes from the level of disgust and envy that this causes among the ones that are not invited and the director of the home.
At first I liked it a lot but I think I would have preferred it if I hadn’t read it all at once. It’s definitely a book that you can read a few pages at a time and it probably would have had more impact if I had done that. There was a lot of humour, but also sadness when friends became ill. But one of the main points throughout regarding the illness was that the people who coped better were the ones who were ill. Hendrik, the diarist, who despite the odd ailment was a very healthy 83 year old suffered more than most.
I loved his battles with the home director, his friendships with Evert and Eefje and the complete dedication that he showed in caring for them. Some of his frustration towards the Dutch politicians didn’t really mean anything to me but I appreciated his cynical swipe at a certain British ex Prime Minister.
Since reading it I have read various articles on the internet, the author is anonymous and there are rumours of a sequel. It is one that I would definitely read, and prepare myself for the inevitable. That age and deteriorating health would bring more sadness to the little group of friends.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy via NetGalley.