Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old - Hendrick Groen

'For fans of  A Man Called Ove...'. That first line in the publisher's description of The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old  by Hendrik Groen had me eager to pick up this book. But it was the voice of Hendrik Groen that has added the book to my list of favourites of 2017.

"I hereby declare that in this diary I am going to give the world an uncensored exposé: a year in the life of the inmates of a care home in North Amsterdam."

I love epistolary novels - they're quite intimate, letting us into the private world of a character. Through Hendrik's diary entries, we experience the highs and lows of living in a senior's care facility - the conflicts, the friendships, the day to day interactions, the worries, some shenanigans, memories, regrets, hopes and more. And though it's been done before - the us vs. them of management vs. seniors will have the reader cheering for the senior's 'team'.

Hendrik is so wonderfully drawn - he has a good heart, is kind and thoughtful, has a wry sense of humour, is a keen observer and determined to not just 'exist' for however long he may have left. And from that desire, the Old But Not Dead Club is born. The other members of the club are the supporting characters we come to know the most - especially Hendrik's best friend, the irreverent Evert ("His philosophy: the only point of being alive is to kill time as pleasantly as possible. The trick is not to take anything too seriously.") and the simply lovely Eefje.

Hendrik's observations will perhaps encourage the reader to take time with and listen a little more carefully to those nearing the end of their lives. Perhaps they'll also envision what they want their own later years to look like. While this novel is a picture of aging in the Netherlands, the emotions and thoughts expressed are universal.

" Our calendars are completely blank - today, tomorrow, and the rest of the year. We have all the time in the world. We once complained about being overscheduled; now we're thrilled to pieces if there's something to jot down other than a doctor's appointment."

"Old people are forever grunting and groaning. Sometimes it's out of exertion or pain, but more often simply out of habit. I have made a small study of it."

Now, don't think this book is a 'downer' - there are lots of laugh out loud and joyful moments, alongside the realities of being eighty four years old. (And yes, you may need a tissue or two) I found The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen to be a heartstring-tugger of a read and absolutely adored it! Read an excerpt here.

I've discovered that there is another 'Hendrik' diary coming out - "As Long as there is Life continues the story of protagonist Hendrik – now aged 85-years-old - and follows the adventures of The Old But Not Dead Club in the Amsterdam retirement home in which he resides. Internationally, Hendrik Groen has sold in 30 territories including in the US, and a Dutch TV series based on the books, "in the vein of 'The Office', is currently in production.


bermudaonion said...

I love epistolary novels too. This sounds wonderful.

Mystica said...

It must be very humourous as well, poking fun at themselves.