Already a hit in its homeland of The Netherlands, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old, is the tale of a delightful old man and his friends. I find it intriguing that we don’t know who the author actually is – all we know is that he is working on another diary. Although the book is published as fiction, I like to think that Henrik is really out there, carrying on his adventures with his friends in the brilliantly named Old But Not Dead Club.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
‘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.
This book was an easy read and I got through it quickly. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deal with some emotional situations. Hendrik deals with love, loss, death, illness and even fish murder! I found Henrik inspirational – it’s surprising when you find out why he’s in a care home, and how just a few years before he was living a (fairly) normal life in ‘a nice terraced house with a garden’.
I didn’t stop smiling throughout the book and the commentary on various situations made me laugh. Who hasn’t found a decades-old tins of food in the back of an elderly relative’s cupboard? He has a great way of retelling incidents from the care home, whether it’s reactions to celebrity deaths or politics, or controversy about the latest electric scooter incident. His friend Evert was absolutely hilarious and, for me, was the star of the book.
I hope there’s some sort of sequel in the future as I just don’t want to let Hendrik go. It’s made the prospect of getting old a lot less daunting and for that, I thank him.
Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin UK for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.