The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old by Hendrik Groen

“The apples match the pattern on your frock perfectly,’ Evert remarked. I almost choked to death laughing.”

I wanted to read something different and current. This book seemed to fit the bill, so I downloaded it onto my Kindle. I actually was expecting death and old-age ailments to be included, along with some twisted humour along similar lines.

The book started with a light-hearted attitude to residents in an old-age pensioners retirement home, very insincere and self mocking. After all the book starts “Another year, and I still don’t like old people. Their Zimmerframe shuffle, their unreasonable impatience, their endless complaints, their tea and biscuits, their bellyaching. Me? I am eighty-three years old.”

The book continues over a year in the life of Hendrick Groen and his fellow residents in a retirement home in the Netherlands. Some of the likeable residents (to Hendrick at least) form a club to go on outings and these give him relief from the tedium of life in the home. As the relationships grow stronger between the club members Hendrick realises that he cares for these people and how life treats them; others not so much.

I did found the book a little dour at times and didn’t think I would like it, but on sharing a bit of the opening chapter with my elderly mother-in-law I gained a different insight; as she seemed to find it very entertaining. Though we didn’t get as far as the diarrhoea and farts that were referenced quite frequently.

If you like irreverent and explicit descriptions of life as it appears to an elderly person, then you will like this book. But don’t expect it to be all sunshine and roses!

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

3/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Official description:

‘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.

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