Cover Image: The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I enjoyed this so much. The dry wit, the realities of getting older looked at with humor, etc. Wish Hendrick was real and I could be his friend.
Was this review helpful?
2.75 stars Worthy of a quick skimming style of reading. Cute, and a touching ending, but otherwise, just something that I did a quick read\skimming and skipping along. 

I haven't read any of these style of books, with the kitschy titles, like I haven't read "A Man Called Ove" or the  "my Grandmother is 97 and robbed a bank, jumped out windows, etc titled stories. I think I am able to continue not reading those ones, since I'm all set now that I've read The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen. It's a cute little story - he writes all the details of life in the nursing home - the ups and downs, the shenanigans, the complaints, the people, the deaths and the loneliness, etc. but I don't think it's the kind of story I need to reach for again with a different title, and/or similar type story. A good one-time style of read for me. 

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for sending the e-arc. I picked it up today from the library and read it over my day outside on the patio.
Was this review helpful?
What a delightful book. I wish i knew a man like Hendrik Groen. I would sit and talk with him all day. This book is a feel good book. Loved the format and this book made me smile. The cake and fish entry was priceless!!! I could not stop laughing. I enjoyed reading the entries and found myself sad when I was done.  I want more of Mr. Hendrik Groen!!!. This is an amazing book. Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the ARC of this book in return for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I'm passing on this one. Just didn't get the humour and found the book depressing more than anything. I prefer to review positively.
Was this review helpful?
Hendrik is my kind of a guy - contrary, ready to break the rules, full of fun, compassionate..  He may be in  a nursing home but he is as full of life - and the devil .  A marvelous read.
Was this review helpful?
Hendrik Groen is 83¼ and lives in a care home in North Amsterdam, but he’s determined not to go gently into that good night. In January 2013 he decides to keep a diary as a way to fight back against the stultifying existence imposed upon him by the director and staff of the home. He firmly believes there’s more to life than having one’s ‘own’ chair in the communal living room; that conversation should be about more than aches and pains; and that the older generation deserves to be given its moment in the limelight. With wit, warmth and poignancy, Groen charts a remarkable year in which he makes new friends, embarks on political intrigue, begins ripping up the road in his new mobility scooter, develops a tendresse for an elegant new arrival and, most importantly, founds the revolutionary Old But Not Dead Club.


Groen is a bit like Elena Ferrante: the name is a pseudonym and apparently the Dutch press have been tying themselves in knots, speculating who could be behind it. Is Groen really a sharp-eyed wit in his eighties? Or is he from a younger generation, using a senior persona as a way to make amusing but ultimately serious points about the way we treat our old-age pensioners? The book is marketed as fiction and it feels crafted, in that Groen just happens to start his diary in what will become a very eventful year for him. At the end of the day, though, does it matter? What counts is the quality of the story and Groen is an appealing companion: acerbic and vulnerable by turn, as he negotiates the opportunities and challenges that come with being of a certain age.

Anyone who’s visited grandparents in an old people’s home will be able to picture the world in which Groen lives. His fellow residents are creatures of habit; self-obsessed; suspicious of anyone not white, straight and Dutch; driven to extremes of fury by changes to the dinner hour, or a new kind of biscuit offered at teatime, but blissfully unconcerned by the war in Syria, natural disasters or cutting-edge politics. For Groen, an intelligent man, such navel-gazing is unbearable. Fortunately, he’s not alone in yearning for something beyond the walls of the home. And thus the Old But Not Dead Club comes into being: an exclusive gathering of sophisticated, adventurous ladies and gentlemen who are committed to expanding their horizons and making the most of their time. Every fortnight, one of them takes on the responsibility for organising an adventure for the whole Club to enjoy. The only limit is their imagination (and accessibility for mobility scooters and wheelchairs, plus easy access to the facilities, of course). It leads to a magnificent adventure, which suddenly opens up a new perspective on life and provides Groen, to his surprise and gratitude, with a close-knit gang of friends.

To some extent, this is an old-age romp along the lines of (though more believable than) The Hundred-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared. Where it differs is that this is also a quiet, understated meditation on the true sorrows of getting old. Unlike some of his neighbours, Groen is practically tight-lipped about his former life but, as we go along, we begin to learn some of the sorrows that nestle in his past. And any story in which the core group of friends is in their mid-eighties necessarily has its fair share of tragedy and misfortune. It also serves as a very strong argument against the cost-cutting to care homes, which leaves residents treated like children and rips away what little dignity they have left. The villain of the piece is certainly the director, whose reaction to any innovation or fun is to discover a rule that forbids it on the grounds of health and safety. It’s a grim assessment of our care industry, and all too recognisable for anyone who’s been to a British nursing home in recent years; but it’s also, crucially, a celebration of the stubbornness and spirit of human nature.

The lovely thing about this book is that adventure and tragedy are woven together in such a way as to create a really engaging story. Groen is the grandfather we all wish we could have had, even if he may not – technically – exist. This tale warms the heart and leaves you longing to know more about the characters – and I hear that Groen has favoured his publisher with a follow-up diary, so we might not have long to wait. In the meantime, seek this one out. Touching, thought-provoking and very funny, it might make you see your own aged relatives in a new light.

To see the review on my blog, please visit:
https://theidlewoman.net/2017/07/18/the-secret-diary-of-hendrik-groen-hendrik-groen/
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely loved this booked. I laughed out loud and shed a tear through some heart breaking moments. A book I will definitely reread. Highly recommended
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book. It was funny and it really was a nice break from the everyday books.  These scenarios and the presentation of them in the book were both comical and thought-provoking.  I loved all of the stories and the glimpse of life at 83.
Was this review helpful?
This is a delightful novel. As the title suggests, it is written in diary entries by an 83 year old man. He shares about his life in a nursing home, the beautiful camaraderie and exploits of his friends in the Old But Not Dead Club, and his musings on current events, specifically those in the Netherlands as this is a Dutch book translated into English. The book is bittersweet at times as the narrator and main characters are elderly and the book examines aging in an honest way. It is not overly sad though and the narrator's witty writing is often laugh-out-loud funny. I recommend to anyone who wants a better understanding of aging or simply enjoys a book with excellent character development.
Was this review helpful?
Seeing the cover of The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen brought back wonderful memories of one of my all-time favorites, Adrian Mole.  I was delighted to get the opportunity to read an advance copy of the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I've been reading a lot of books about curmudgeonly old people lately, but I liked that Hendrik had a sweetness to him that offset his critical side.  In fact, I found his critical side usually justified and productive.  I liked that he wanted to surround himself with people with positive attitudes who want to enjoy their lives and help each other out.  I did, however,  feel a little sorry for the people who were excluded from their group.

Although I originally assumed that this was a work of fiction, when I noticed the author's name was the same as the title, I began to wonder if it was a real diary.  I did a little research and learned my original assumption was correct.  I found the book well-written and an interesting look at life of the elderly in The Netherlands.  A lot of the observations seemed universal to me, but it was also nice to learn about another culture.  It was a nice mixture of humor and realism. I look forward to the next installment and other works by the author.
Was this review helpful?
Hendrik Goren is the 83 year old resident of a Danish retirement home. He decides to spend the next year writing (almost daily) in a diary as a scathing expose into the retirement home he lives in. What he ended up with wasn't quite that. While I was shocked that the "inmates" (as Hendrik calls the residents) aren't privy to the actual rules and regulations of their facility, it didn't seem like life was all that bad for them. Perhaps it is due to Mr. Groen's particular sense of wit or the friendships he made and shared with the reader. With all the honesty and heart ache that comes with old age, this book is a treasure!
Was this review helpful?
Can't say this was a favorite of mine.  Seemed like a cranky old guy.
Was this review helpful?
<i>Jan 5: She pressed three slices of cake on me when I left... Those slices have found a home in the fish tank on the third floor

Jan 7: An investigation was launched yesterday into the sudden demise of the fish on the third floor. A considerable amount of cake was found floating in the water.</i>

Hendrik Groen doesn't like old people that much. But being as he's 83 and lives in a retirement home, they're hard to escape. He suffers from several ailments, but the good news is that his decline is progressing at an "acceptable rate"-- whatever that means. Even more vexing than the occasional senior moment or the prospect of wearing diapers are the insane and ever-changing rules and regulations at the home-- which no one is allowed to see in print or question. Alongside cutbacks in public services for pensioners, it seems the whole of Holland is ready to write off its greatest generation.

<i>I can't make the reality prettier than it is: sad, grim, and funny all at once.</i>

He fights back the only way he can. With a couple of like minded friends, he starts the Old But Not Dead club, and they start challenging themselves to do new things. But even being young in spirit-- for a couple of hours a week, at least-- can't keep the realities of old age at bay. For a year, Hendrik keeps a secret diary. It's full of snark and humor and heart, and a reminder that no matter how old you are, there's still life to be lived.
Was this review helpful?