The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ years Old by Hendrik Groen and Hester Velmans (translator)
|The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ years Old by Hendrik Groen and Hester Velmans (translator)|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Stacey Barkley|
|Summary: There is life left yet to be lived and Hendrik Groen swears to do so in style – a heap of mischief and fun, but a tale with a big heart too.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: July 2017|
As the old adage goes, to walk a mile in someone else's shoes is to gain some understanding of what it is to be that person. Admittedly, Hendrik Groen isn't much up for long walks any more, but he does acquire a swish mobility scooter to zoom around in; one could say that we get to zoom a mile in Groen's shoes, and oh, what fun shoes he wears!
At 83¼ years old, Hendrik is clear about one thing: he does not like old people very much. And yet he finds himself resident in an old people's home in North Amsterdam. He embarks on his diary promising a no-holes-barred exposé of the home's daily shenanigans; for a good example, see Mrs Visser - who lacks a few skills in the baking department – and the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the resident fish. Better still picture the traffic jam of zimmer frames and scooters trying to get over the edge of the lift door. And then there are the rules, ever growing: no toasters in rooms, no pets, and no more than two alcoholic drinks per person.
Regulations are no fun though, and so, determined to see out his remaining years with spirit and a dash of mischief, Hendrik finds himself, alongside a few like-minded souls, forming the Old-But-Not-Dead Club. Together they take it in turns to organise outings; casinos, cooking classes, 3D films - anything goes, within mobility reason. They forge a strong bond bolstered by the chagrin of management who cannot fathom why the group need any more than their organised bingo nights, and by the jealousy of the other residents.
The tight-knit group comprises Evert, a longstanding friend of Hendrik's who is fond of a drink and keeps having to have toes removed due to his diabetes, Eefje, a new arrival to the home who brings spark and verve, Grietje, Edward, Graeme, and Antoine and Ria, two new additions, former chefs who like to flout the rules by cooking up lavish treats in their room.
Peeking into Hendrik's diary allows the privilege of watching these relationships (and the mischief) develop. It is heartening to watch as the newcomer, Eefje, manages to win Evert's heart, and while this relationship remains platonic the strength of their bond and connection is incredibly endearing. Meanwhile Evert is the dose of comedy the whole place needs; always armed with the (right) wrong thing to say he quips away as the other residents moan about their bowel movements and medication.
Watching this group merrily make their way through good food and wine (definitely more than two per person) was a great big heap of feel-good, but this good spirit cannot protect the club from the ailments and realities of older age. In the end the group is not immune to the trials of dementia, stroke and ill health.
And so while the end might not offer the most uplifting version of events it does nonetheless capture the true spirit of the club, for while these trials persist those members affected have laughed, they have loved and they have been downright silly; in essence they have lived while time remains. This is the resounding message of Hendrik's story and one that will have a lasting pull on how you view the aging process.
There is something deliciously satisfying about covertly peeking into someone else's life; for another diary format why not check out My So-called Life: The Tragically Normal Diary of Rachel Riley by Joanna Nadin. At the other end of the age scale, who can resist The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend
You can read more book reviews or buy The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ years Old by Hendrik Groen and Hester Velmans (translator) at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ years Old by Hendrik Groen and Hester Velmans (translator) at Amazon.com.
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