29 Dec 2017

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 years old by Hendrik Groen


Hendrik Groen dislikes the elderly. Unfortunately he lives in a rest-home in the Netherlands which is full of the whinging, complaining and boring people he wants to avoid. To occupy his time, Hendrik writes in a diary which provides a funny and honest account of what it means to reach this point in your life.


Although this sounds like a bit of a depressing topic, the diary is written in a very funny way, as Hendrik is revealed as a mischievous character who refuses to accept his age and the rules imposed on him by the home. This ranges from small acts like hiding unwanted sponge cake in an aquarium (ultimately killing the fish inside) to the larger formation of an 'old but not dead' club in which Hendrik and his friends go on monthly outings, which often involve large amounts of alcohol. What makes the story so good is Hendrik’s wry comments and self-deprecating humour. He pokes fun at old age and at the residents, which will resonate with anyone who has visited a family member in a rest home.

There is some sadness to the book as one of Hendrik's friends struggles with early on-set dementia, and he often comments on the state of elderly care in the Netherlands, including issues surrounding euthanasia. However, the book avoids being a depressing account of a rest home by presenting these as facts of life, and focusing on the fun Hendrik is having now that he doesn’t have to worry about work. I found this to be a genuinely funny read which left me with a positive outlook on aging. The sequel ‘On The Bright Side: the new secret diary of Hendrik Groen’ comes out next year and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.