The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 831/4 Years Old
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼
The DI Book Club received 10 complementary copies of this from Penguin Random House and
absolutely loved it.
The story centres around Hendrik Groen ,who is writing a diary about a year of his life in an Amsterdam care home. Along with his friends, Hendrik forms the ‘Old but Not Dead Club’. The
rules are displayed at the very start of the book and this seems to set the tone for what is to come.
The book is sharp and funny with real laugh out loud moments but there are some
touching moments as well.
I think this is a book that you will either love or hate. Our book group certainly loved it.
More adventures from Hendrik and his friends please.
Take a peek into life in a care home in the Netherlands where the average age is over 80. This funny, irreverent glimpse shows us that humour and independent sprit remain into extreme old age. A small group of residents form themselves into the Old But Not Dead Club and go on outings that widen their horizons and bring joy back into their lives. The problems of extreme old age are not glazed over yet the expression 'there is life in the old dog yet' is entirely apposite. Wonderful.
A slightly irreverent, but probably very realistic look at old age from the point of view of a resident in a care home in Amsterdam. To add a little spice to his life, and to help convince himself that he doesn’t have to spend his latter days on this earth being walked all over, Hendrik decides to write an uncensored exposé of a year in the life of an inmate in a care home.
The book is written as a diary and is easy to read and thoroughly entertaining. Not only is it very amusing, there are also “laugh out loud” moments. But this book is so much more than a comedy. It tackles a host of subjects with a perception which is astonishing and a poignancy which is very touching.
The end result is a book that seems very real. The author is unknown and seems to have managed to remain completely anonymous, not an easy achievement in this day and age. This is purely supposition on my part but if the diary was actually more autobiography than fiction (and was therefore based loosely on the residential home in which the author lived and the people and staff who populate it), then he was probably going to have to look for another place to live if the “novel” was ever published. Perhaps this is the very reason the author has worked very hard at hiding his identity – it is real(ish) and he’s getting too old to move.
I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone. It is both enjoyable and informative, giving numerous insights into the problems of growing old yet demonstrating that it need not all be doom and gloom – a bit of application, a sense of mischief and a wicked sense of humour go a long way to making life bearable most of the time.
The Preschool Parents' Book club received copies thanks to Penguin Random house. We utterly loved Hendrik and his friends in the 'old-but-not-dead-yet' club living in their care home. The story has a subtle self-deprecating humour that makes you smile, in some instances laugh out loud. The diary/entry chapters are relatively short, so if you are busy this is a great read to be able to pick up and put down and get back into quickly (very useful with small children!). The narrative was tender and touching describing aging in a Western society and its associated important themes.
If you enjoyed Adrian Mole and Harold Fry then you'll love Hendrik Groen.
Our Book group received 10 complimentary copies of this book from the Reading Agency. The book centers around Hendrik Groen - a lovable octogenarian in an Amsterdam care home. Hendrik decides to set out and write an 'expose' of life in a care home and that is what this book is!
Our book group fully enjoyed this book - we found it be humorous and touching with a selection of life-affirming and colourful characters along the way.
Why we enjoyed it-
- it was very easy to read - it's hard to believe it's a translation as it 'reads' so well!
-it was often very funny with us all recounting our favourite bits
- we all particularly enjoyed meeting Hendrik's friends - and formed fond attachments to them
-even though there is a sad story there is more happiness to be taken from it
- it seemed very relevant to everything that is going on in the UK in terms of social care and overfilled nursing homes.
I think as well we could each relate to it with our own personal stories of knowing people in care homes/ working in care homes.
Not everyone in the book club managed to finish this book.
We wondered if some of the elements of this book have been lost in the translation from Dutch? Also, maybe some things are more meaningful to a Dutch person in this book rather than to us. Some of the humour we found really funny such as the moorhen incident, or the apple pies, but other things seemed to pass us by a little. This could also have been to do with this book having been translated. The humour we did see was very dark, as you expect it to be given this gentleman is discussing the final journey of him and his friends in an old age home. He makes the reader confront some things that most people don't want to think about because no-one really wants to think about how their life is going to change when they get old.
We enjoyed the ways the characters were all trying to fight the system they found themselves in using the "Old But Not Dead Club", some of their outings sounded great! These humorous moments and sections where they are trying to regain their youth are juxtaposed with some moments of great sadness. For example the very little snippets you get about Hendriks life before the home, what happened to his wife and child. He barely mentions it, just in passing but it did stick with us all.
We discussed what we would have with us to make us unusual old people and came up with the following:
Brightly coloured Nike trainers
Music such as New Order
Overall we gave this book 7 out of 10.
This book was given to us free from the Reading Agency.