The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1⁄4 Years Old
August 25, 2016
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.
If this book wasn’t so freaking funny it would have been tragic. Hendrik Groen’s dry humor tells you his story of living in a care home for the elderly situated in Amsterdam. Through his diary this elderly gentleman tells you the daily happenings in his home. From broken hips, dead fish, lost keys, cut backs on privileges and his daily walks which get shorter every day.
Hendrik is someone we all want to be when we reach his age but alas not a lot of us will ever become this role model. The first sentence of this book tells it all ‘Another year and I still don’t like old people. Me? I am 83 years old.’
As most people of this age, living in a home, have accepted their fate Hendrik does not. Yes he has accepted his illnesses, his daily routines of 3 meals a day, taking his medicine, getting ordered around by staff and sitting behind the window looking out but he also tries to make his, and some of his friends’, life a little better. He founds the exclusive ‘Old-But-Not Dead Club‘ together with 5 of his friends which fast becomes the envy of the home. Not only with other ‘inmates’, as he likes to call them but also staff.
Hendrik and his club break the rules of the home with things, we who do not live in such a home take for granted.
Like I said already if this book wasn’t that funny it would be tragic. The living conditions of the elderly and the care they get (or lack of) is all painfully described in this book. I do realize this is not the staffs fault but the economic circumstances and limitations these homes have to work around. Still it hurts.
Hendrik Groen has reached the degree of a modern day hero in the Netherlands, where this book has been first released. And after reading this book you’ll understand why. Since I myself originally come from the Netherlands I recognize certain events and names mentioned in this book, they might have been changed though in the translation. Who, outside the Netherlands, has ever heard of Ramses Shaffy for instance? OK, they are small details which have really NO impact on your reading experiences but they might have made it more connecting to you as a non Dutch reader. They rooted this book for me, planted me back in a surrounding I know.
‘The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old‘ is a book I’d really want everyone to read, it is funny, sweet and aims straight to the heart. It’s been a long time for me since I read a book I love this much. I’ve had a big grin on my face throughout the whole book.
It has nested itself in my top 3 favorite books of all time fighting for first place with Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. It’s for sure by far the best book of 2016 so far!
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