“The secret diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1⁄4 Years Old” by Hendrik Groen – Book Review

The novel opens with: “Another year, and I still don’t like old people. Their walker shuffle, their unreasonable impatience, their endless complaints, their tea and cookies, their bellyaching.  Me? I am eighty-three years old.”

Considering that the basis of this novel is the observations of an elderly man who resides in an Amsterdam nursing home, I should be a bit guilty for chuckling through most of it. I did this so much that my husband thinks that I have ‘lost the plot’.

Hilarity via truisms! In other words? A dramady.

The book, written in the form of a diary, holds acutely astute observations on what it is to be ‘old’. Rendered in a direct and simple way, without artifice, the book just works.

Hendrik, at 83 years old, is one of the youngest residents of his nursing home.  He definitely has all his wits about him, though he admits to a failing memory, but that could be true of a lot of us. Along with his wits, he has a sometimes scathing, always intelligent sense of humor.

“Of the five senses, my nose still works best. Which is not always a blessing in here. It smells of old people.”

To make the days less monotonous, and to make something of what life they have left, Hendrik and a few of his friends set up the ‘old-but-not-dead club’ aka ‘The Rebel Club’. Hendrik’s life has been a tragic one, yet, for the most part, he approaches what life he has remaining with good humour. All the more poignant because Hendrik NEVER has any visitors. His only friends live in the nursing home with him.

“Friendship is the essential ingredient for a good life.”

Hendrik’s friends in the club are all folks that I would like to meet. Especially Eefje Brand, the woman he learns to love. She brings banter and true affection back into his life – at least for a short while…

Even though Hendrik’s observations are of a Dutch care home, they are in many ways universal. People are people, wherever they live.  Nursing home issues, whether they be as mundane as the daily monotony, as base as the financial cutbacks, or as dismal as the prevalence of depression among the elderly, all resonate with elder folk everywhere.

“The older the people are, the more scared they are. At our age, surely, there’s nothing left to lose, so why not be fearless?”

Because Hendrik finds walking more and more difficult, he invests in a mobility scooter. This gives him great pleasure and a sense of freedom he had forgotten.

This is a book that resonates with me personally.  I spend a good two afternoons a week visiting my stepfather who is in just such a nursing home. I must confess I wish he were a little more like Hendrik…  Sadly, his wits are not always about him…

“Something exciting to look forward to is crucial to keep up one’s zest for life.”

I enjoyed the descriptions of Amsterdam, and I loved the tales of the excursions enjoyed by “The old but not dead” club.

I can only hope that I can age with as much dignity and panache as Hendrik.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1⁄4 Years Old has been translated into over twenty languages. And… good news folks!  There is a sequel to Hendrik’s story! “On the bright side” is now available for your reading pleasure.

I received a digital copy of this novel for free – at my request – from Grand Central Publishing via NetGalley. This review is my way of saying thanks for a great read.

The book has been adapted for the small screen in the Netherlands.  I thought you’d appreciate seeing a still from the show featuring Kees Hulst, the Dutch actor who plays Hendrik Groen.Director Tim Oliehoek teamed up with creator Peter de Smet, writer Martin van Waardenberg and creative producer Anton Smit to make the story work on the screen.”

Hendrik Groen , pseudonym of Peter de Smet , is a Dutch writer . He is the author of the book ” Something to make something of life” published in 2014 : The secret diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ years . That book was awarded in 2016 with the Audience Award for the Dutch Book . The sequel As long as there is Life: The new secret diary of Hendrik Groen, 85 years old  (aka “On the bright side”) appeared in 2016.

For years it was unknown who was hiding behind the pseudonym. Hendrik Groen started his diary on the literary website of Torpedo magazine. He says about his novel: “There’s not one sentence that’s a lie, but not every word is true.”

The secret diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ years won the Audience Award for the Dutch Book in 2016. This prize was not personally collected by the author.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Literary fiction, NetGalley, novels in translation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to “The secret diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1⁄4 Years Old” by Hendrik Groen – Book Review

  1. Pingback: 30 People I Have Yet To Meet (and 13 people I’ve met already) | Fictionophile

  2. Pingback: Older male protagonists? – I love them! | Fictionophile

  3. Pingback: “Get Well Soon” by Marie-Sabine Roger | Fictionophile

  4. Sammie says:

    This book caught my eye previously, but I hadn’t given it much thought since. It looks like a fantastic book, and I’ll have to pick it up. 🙂 Thanks for the review!


  5. LizScanlon says:

    aaaah, I so regret now for not buying this book when I was holding it during a visit to the bookshop last week… I will fix this and I will get this and I will read this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The Avid Reader says:

    This sounds like a book that I would really enjoy. I will have to put this on my TBR list. Great review!


  7. Joanne says:

    Loved this book, so funny!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Not sure how I haven’t heard of this book, but it’s going on my list straight away. For three years, in my early twenties, I worked in a nursing home as an office manager. The most memorable job I’ve ever had. I have a feeling this book will be something special.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. annelogan17 says:

    It’s funny you just reviewed this, because I did as well, and I thought i had missed the boat on this but glad to see others are just getting around to it too! I loved it, not sure if the sequel will be available in Canada though…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is another of those books that I have marked to read – It sounds as though I need to get around to it before too long.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Such a lovely book. You’ll enjoy book 2 also Lynne. X

    Liked by 1 person

  12. skyecaitlin says:

    I lost my mother in 2007, and I still miss her like it was yesterday; however, she was a Bette Davis type ( looked like her, too) and she also disliked elderly people, even when she was older than most; I become very maudlin with two topics—-the elderly and infirm, those in nursing homes, and any books related to the suffering, abduction and misuse of children.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Yes! Having lost my mother late 2017 after 2 yrs in a nursing home, I can relate. I can also understand the smothering depression. It’s awful. But the book looks good; I could appreciate some humor out of that experience and will look for the book. Great review, as always. Thanks!


  14. olganm says:

    I loved this book and I have recently read the next one in the series that I also enjoyed (although I found a bit sadder). I didn’t know about the movie. I hope it will have a wide release.


  15. This book seems so good!! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s