The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 Years Old
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One of our Books of the Year 2016.
Poignant, moving and funny, I chuckled my way through this delightful (but no longer secret) diary from the rather lovable Hendrik Groen.
Hendrik has reached the age where his address book is depressingly empty and his life has become an endless string of funerals and conversations concerning bowel movements, the latest list of ailments and euthanasia. The care home he lives in is like a waiting room for death and so in an effort to keep his own sanity he decides to write his memoir. He intends to record it all, the mystery of the fish murderer, the suspicious activities being carried out by those who run the establishment and last but by no means least the happenings of THE-OLD-BUT-NOT-DEAD club.
Hendrik is an endearing character who I very much enjoyed spending time with in this gentle read that left me feeling a little sad but hopeful. Snippets of the life he lived and what remains of it filter in throughout the book and have a greater sense of poignancy as they merge in with the everyday happenings of the here and now. When we are old we are still very much the person we have always been, hopefully reading this will remind us all that behind each and every elderly person lies a story. ~ Shelley Fallows
September 2016 Debut of the Month.
Sarah Broadhurst's view...
An old people's home in the Netherlands is the setting for this satire but it could be anywhere except for the small amount of political references. But Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela's deaths are commented upon too. With a vast cast of residents and all kinds of worries and problems we concentrate mainly on a group of friends who form the 'old-but-not-dead club' where each member organises an outing. They do more than most old people ever think of: take a cookery lesson, wine-tasting, painting, synchronized swimming, tai chi, bowls, golf and such. Hanging over the home is the threat of renovation, therefore change. Our narrator is determined to get sight of the regulations and decides to challenge the board. Solicitors become involved. His three closest friends have a dramatic and sad year which is sensitively portrayed. The action takes place over that year and is written in diary form. Personally I feel that if you are involved with the elderly you might find this all a bit disturbing despite it's amusing style. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.
- Linda Hill - 'Funny, entertaining and simultaneously moving - Hendrik is a character readers can't fail to love.'
- Lesley Mumbray-Williams - 'This book was a delight - touching, very funny as well as poignant, and a reminder that while we all get old and perhaps infirm we don't have to admit defeat!'
- Edel Waugh - 'He slips in details that often made a lump form in my throat, it's often deeply thought provoking, sometimes laugh out loud funny, and sometimes tear-jerking.'
- Glynis Elliott - 'Although well written, I found this novel slightly difficult to read.'
- Humaira - 'This book is just bursting with emotion, humour and tenderness!'
- Kathryn Whitfield - 'Honest account of life, a brilliant read.'
- Annie Day - 'This amusing and touching account of one man's life in a care home for the elderly made me smile.'
- Sarah Hamid - 'Twinkly-eyed oldies staging mild rebellion in an OAP home - what's not to like! A mixture of warm, likeable characters, black humour and pathos. I hope I have Hendrik's outlook on life when I'm 83!'
- Rachel Shapey - 'I wasn't sure what to expect from this book but it was both funny and poignant, showing what mischief the elderly residents of a care home can get up to! A worthwhile read.'
- Joan Sidwell - 'A joy from start to finish: funny, poignant, thought provoking, humbling and, at times, very sad, this is a must read book.'
- Jacki Moorcroft - 'Move over Adrian Mole, there's a new KID in town! Humorous tales of life in a care home in Amsterdam. Hendrik Groen is my hero!'
- Wendy Stubbs - 'A delightful read, tears and laughter plus occasional disbelief. A magical book, I defy anybody not to enjoy.'
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 Years Old by Hendrik Groen
** THE INTERNATIONAL PHENOMENON ** 'There are many laughs in this book but it's so much more than just a comedy. It's a story about how friendship, selflessness and dignity lie at the heart of the human experience. When I'm an old man, I want to be Hendrik Groen' John Boyne, author of international bestseller The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas '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 expose: 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.
Praise for The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 Years Old:
'Hendrik Groen's account of daily life in a care home for the elderly pulled me in with its self-deprecating humour, finely drawn characters and frank accounting of the trials of old age. Behind Hendrik's light touch and grumpy-old-man persona is a story with a great deal of heart, and some important themes. Hendrik effortlessly incorporates the politics of aged care, from funding to euthanasia, into his personal story and offers his own acerbic insights. Anyone who has a friend or relative in a nursing home or retirement village, or who hopes to grow old with dignity themselves, will find much to reflect on' Graeme Simsion, international bestselling author of The Rosie Project
'Funny, tragic and sometimes heart rending' Het Parool 'Hendrik Groen is a heart-warming hero' Trouw 'With pungent phrasing Groen takes down life in a retirement home. Both charming and hilarious'****Leeuwarder Courant
'Hendrik Groen is king. My mother (78) suffers from dementia. Doesn't read a newspaper or magazine anymore, only old photo albums can grab her attention for longer than 5 minutes. Hendrik Groen made her laugh out loud' Ray Kluun, author of Love Life
'The tears came streaming down my face. From laughing so hard. I couldn't stop grinning for three days' Ouderenjournaal
'Never a dull moment with my new BFF Hendrik Groen' Read Shop, Hedel
'It reminded me of a combination between The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Wonderful! Shame it's finished already' Arjen Broers, Bookshop Bruna
'Heart-warming, funny and poignant. It's about all aspects of life. EVERYBODY should read this' Bookshop Stevens
About the Author
Publication date25th August 2016
More books by Hendrik Groen
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PublisherMichael Joseph Ltd an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
CategoriesModern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Fiction in translation
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