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Hendrik Groen #1

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old

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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 has 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 endeavor 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.

378 pages, Hardcover

First published June 1, 2014

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About the author

Hendrik Groen

9 books487 followers
Hendrik Groen, pseudonym of Peter de Smet, is a Dutch writer. He is the author of the book Pogingen iets van het leven te maken: Het geheime dagboek van Hendrik Groen, 83¼ jaar (The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old) published in 2014. That book was awarded in 2016 with the Audience Award for the Dutch Book. The sequel Zolang er leven is: het tweede geheime dagboek van Hendrik Groen, 85 jaar (On the Bright Side: The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen) appeared in 2016.

For years it was unknown who was hiding behind the pseudonym. This led to speculation about who it could be. Names from Sylvia Witteman to Arnon Grunberg were mentioned. Both De Volkskrant and NRC Handelsblad revealed almost simultaneously in 2016 that Peter de Smet was 62-year-old. De Smet responded with the words that 'he is not waiting for publicity' and 'has no sense in the fuss about fame'.

Attempts to make something of life in 2016 won the Audience Award for the Dutch Book. This prize was not personally collected by the author.

In 2017, the books were filmed and broadcasted by Omroep MAX as the television series Hendrik Groen's Secret Diary. Screenwriter Martin van Waardenberg once again confirmed that De Smet was the man behind the pseudonym. In 2017, a stage adaptation was also brought to the stage under the direction of Gijs de Lange. Beau Schneider played the role of Hendrik Groen.

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5 stars
6,951 (28%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,039 reviews
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,599 reviews24.7k followers
July 24, 2016
This is a wonderful heartrending, uplifting and hilarious read. It is obviously a take on Adrian Mole but featuring an elderly curmudgeon, Hendrik Groen. It is set in a north Amsterdam nursing care home which is going to experience a whistleblowing day to day account of the lives of an eccentric bunch of residents and the rules they are subjected to, documented in the diary. Hendrik is grumpy, cynical, politically incorrect, full of life, funny and a rebel with a cause. He has two friends, Evert and the assistant to the Administrator, Anja. The book does a stellar job in challenging the stereotypes and the invisibility of the elderly.

The story begins with Hendrik deciding to write a diary to prevent himself sinking into a apathetic stupor and accepting that there is only the end of life to look forward to. There is an incident with the Aquarium in the care home which results in dead fish and a clash with management. A new resident arrives, Eefje, who just happens to be Hendrik's dream woman. Before you know it, Hendrik is motivated into sprucing himself up to make the most of his physical assets and go in search of love. With a spark of rebellion we have a group of residents set up the Old But Not Yet Dead club whereby they support each other through their difficulties, declining health and tragedies. They organise day trips which does them a world of good in enlivening their days. This club comes to be envied by the rest of the inmates. After mulling it over for a while, Hendrik purchases a scooter which leads to a number of incidents and adventures. There is a strong element of growing old disgracefully which I could only applaud. Interspersed are the sorrows of getting older, dementia, strokes, the failing body and losing friends to death.

There is a strong social and political commentary such as on the shortfalls in funding and the rules the elderly have to live under that drain their life force unnecessarily. The story is laced with wisdom and its themes have a universality that crosses borders of the specifics of a Dutch Care Home to be issues of global concern for all of us. This novel made me cry and laugh. I hope I don't take things lying down as I get older. Hendrik is a scintillating role model on how to get old. I loved this book and would urge others to read it. A highly recommended brilliant and enchanting read. Thanks to Penguin Michael Joseph for an ARC.
Profile Image for Maureen .
1,379 reviews7,089 followers
July 31, 2016
Hendrik Groen can be grumpy, mischievous, and even sarcastic when the occasion calls for it, but his more positive personality traits far outshine the negatives with his caring, thoughtful, and giving nature.

Hendrik lives in a care home in Amsterdam, and his book gives a lively look at a year in his life from his own perspective. Although he's finding it increasingly hard to get get about these days, he's far from dead, and just to prove it, he and his friends set up the 'Old But Not Dead' club. The club members are each tasked in turn, with arranging an outing in which they can all participate. The results are both refreshing and ingenious. It gives them something to look forward to as well as relieving the monotony of their daily lives.

Amongst the club's members are Evert,( Hendrik's best pal and partner in crime ), and then there is the care home's newest resident Eefje, Hendrik's dream woman ( proving that you're never too old for love!). Evert is a naughty schoolboy dressed in an aged person's body, but that doesn't stop him! Eefje on the other hand is quiet, contemplative and intelligent. Hendrik wishes he'd met her half a lifetime ago. In the latter part of the book, there are some simple yet really moving moments between Hendrik and Eefje that left me with a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes.

This book though mostly had me chuckling at some of their antics, not just those of the club members, but the residents in general. Of course, there is a certain amount of backstabbing, as is only natural when people live in such close proximity, but the overriding feeling I'm left with is one of being humbled, charmed, and amused.

Let me say right here and now, that if I ever end up in a care home, I pray that there is a Hendrik and an Evert to brighten up my remaining days, I just LOVE Hendrik!

What a change this was from my usual genres, but I'm so glad I read it, it was a pleasure and an honour to share Hendrik's life, if only for a year!

*Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin UK- Michael Joseph for my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review*
Profile Image for Sheri.
1,120 reviews52 followers
July 4, 2018
Hendrik's diary expresses all the things we all wish we could say and do. He and his cohort Evert even occasionally stir the pot by expressing those sarcastic and petulant thoughts aloud. And maybe at age 83 1/4 he has earned the right to. Between the silly rules and the cantankerous residents at his retirement home, Hendrik has much to keep him both amused and discomfited. The three G's (gossip, grousing, and gibberish) keep his days interesting.

I felt a range of emotions while reading Hendrik's diary: happy, sad, teary eyed, laughter. I really enjoyed his exposé, it's filled with amusing and profound true to life anecdotes about aging and life in general with great vocabulary to boot.
Profile Image for Maria Espadinha.
1,014 reviews363 followers
January 9, 2022
Velhos mas não Mortos

A velhice não é fácil!
Satirizando, poderemos encará-la como um jogo de mais e menos:

Mais achaques
Mais rugas
Mais cabelos brancos
Mais resmungadelas
Mais idas ao médico

Menos dentes
Menos memória
Menos energia
Menos alegria
Menos autonomia

Em suma — mais do que não presta e menos do que presta!

Porém... enquanto há vida há esperança, e a amizade e o humor quando se unem geram milagres!

"O Diário Secreto de Hendrik Groen" é um livro sobre um velho que detesta velhos, e que aos 83 anos e 1/4, optou por um bravo pontapé na velhice!
Resta-nos aprender com ele, se almejamos chegar a velhos!...😉

Para vos motivar a leitura, lego-vos aqui um excerto que me divertiu particularmente:

“Entornou-se uma grande quantidade de açúcar. Para conseguir chegar melhor à mesa para a limpar com um pano da loiça, a senhora Smit poisou, por um instante, o seu prato com folhados de maçã sobre uma cadeira.
A senhora Voorthuizen chegou e pespegou o seu enorme tra­seiro exatamente sobre o prato com os folhados, sem sequer se dar conta.
Só quando a senhora Smit foi ver do prato é que alguém se lembrou de procurar debaixo da senhora Voorthuizen. Quando esta se pôs de pé, tinha três folhados de maçã colados à sua saia às florezinhas.
«Até ficam bem com o padrão», disse o Evert. Quase sufoquei de tanto rir.”

São 4 estrelas luzidias 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,430 reviews810 followers
October 20, 2019
“As part of her plan of action to combat the dementia, Grietje has composed, with my help, two new notes she is to carry with her at all times: ‘What to do if I get lost’ and ‘What to do if I don’t remember exactly who someone is.’ Both notes start with: ‘Please forgive me, but I’m a bit forgetful.’
. . .

‘With a little luck, next year I’ll believe in Santa Claus again!’
said Grietje gaily.

‘Yes, just keep going the way you’re going, and you’ll get there soon enough,’ Evert egged her on. She liked the prospect of trustingly leaving her shoe by the hearth again.

‘Santa Claus could leave me an arch-support insole!’

‘Made of marzipan.”

. . .

I must try to be thankful for every happy day, as Grietje is, and I am trying with all my might, but sometimes I’m just not mighty enough.”

Hendrik is a bit of a grouchy old fellow, but it’s not long before he realises that it’s not just his age and infirmity that have affected his mood, it’s the continuous complaints and “organ recitals” at the dinner table (a phrase I only ever heard used by my aunt, who was exasperated by hearing all the gory details about other people’s organs).

Hendrik discovers that pranks are a lot of fun, and his disposing of some unwanted cake in an aquarium stirs up more than a few dead fish. It's a major incident, and the authorities seek to investigate!

The first part of the book seems to be mostly anecdotes and descriptions, which certainly ring true from my experiences with family and friends and community service organisations, but they didn’t interest me. Been there, done that (well, as an outsider, for the time being). But I persisted.

As he got to know more people and make some particularly special friends (who formed the Old But Not Dead Club - a truly inspired idea), he became involved in their lives and so did I. They consume a lot of wine and whisky and enjoy life. He is happily surprised.

“On parting, a kiss on both cheeks. I felt myself get all hot and bothered. Jesus, I’m eighty-three years old!”

He often refers to the residents as “inmates”, and the authoritarian manager, who tries desperately to control things (impossible), is indeed something of a warden, claiming nobody is allowed to see The Rules (those rules they seem to keep bumping up against with their bright ideas).

And some of their ideas ARE bright and inventive. The "Club" gets up to all sorts of things. Hendrik was not a fan of aids and equipment, from incontinence pads to mobility scooters, but as he sees what others are dealing with (and how much fun the scooters are), he does learn to adapt and look forward. After all, if he wants to get out and about . . .

“I really must make a point of asking my geriatrician next time if there’s anything that can be done about the leaky part or if I’ll just have to resign myself to wearing diapers. Not so long ago I used to think that was when one lost one’s last shred of dignity, but I realize that I have now lowered the bar a bit. The frog in the cooking pot, that’s me.”

I had the same mixed feelings about becoming attached to these elderly folks who are fading and falling apart, but their good humour and companionship won me over. They are not all genteel by any means, and some have quite "direct" language, but nothing offensive except to those pernickety old residents who deserved to be offended!

Here’s a link to one of the Dutch mobility vehicles he lusted after.
The Canta mobility vehicle. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canta_(...

And here’s another to how the Dutch have made use of their cycleways which Australia can only envy. Sigh . . .


And a last link – to Publisher’s Weekly which says that Hendrik Groen is an alias. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/b...

Thanks to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for the preview copy from which I’ve quoted.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,219 reviews2,050 followers
August 28, 2018
Hendrik Groen is 83 years old and living in a retirement home in Amsterdam. His secret diary is both funny and sad as he records the daily hassles of aging and of living with a host of other people in the same boat.

When this book was published the author was anonymous which may well have had something to do with the criticisms of how the Dutch elderly are treated. Mind you Australia does not do much better! In the book Hendrik and his friends take matters into their own hands and form the Not Dead Yet Club. No matter how old, people need friends they can relate to and occupations which are worthwhile and enjoyable. Together this group create outings which they all enjoy including things people may frown on such as visiting the pub.

Of course there are bad things too. At this age one can expect one's friends to get really sick and to die. Hendrik is in the unfortunate position of meeting someone truly important to him and then to only know her for eight precious months. Life can be cruel.

For me this book was meaningful and quite profound. It was certainly amusing too as the geriatric team got themselves into and out of scrapes. I enjoyed it very much.
Profile Image for Sue.
2,690 reviews170 followers
November 17, 2017
In the north Amsterdam Care home lives Hendricks.
He reminds me of a mischievous child, one you just see as sometimes naughty but cute, cuddles and loveable because they say some awesome things on they're perception of life it makes you laugh.

This is Hendricks.

He also has a serious side he lays bare in his diary.

He's aging.
We all are aging everyday of our lives and we give it no thought. Friendships are bonded and become so important as we get older.

Very enjoyable read.
My thanks to Penguin UK via Net Galley
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,094 reviews2,663 followers
September 20, 2016
Hendrik Groen is spending his final years in a care home in Amsterdam – he still doesn’t like the elderly; complaining, whinging lot – and he’s 83 ¼ himself. His best friend is the mischievous troublemaker Evert – between the two of them the fish in the aquarium are destined to live a short life; the stuffy boss of the home is determined to discover the culprits but Evert and Hendrik think themselves safe.

When one of the residents passes away, the room is taken by Eefje. She is a quiet, thoughtful woman – and Hendrik is smitten. He smartens himself up, nervously hosts a get together over cups of tea with both Eefje and Evert and wishes he’d met her half a century sooner.

As we move through the day by day diary entries of Hendrik, we learn about the Old But Not Dead Club which he formed – the activities and antics, day trips and support which the members offer each other. There is heartache and tragedy, laughter and fun, all of which makes the days so much better than the usual monotony of sitting gazing out the windows. The envy of the other residents is obvious...

Hendrik Groen is a grumpy, cynical old man, determined not to go quietly – the laugh out loud anecdotes had me chuckling right from the very start. A year in the life of an elderly nursing home resident – how could it possibly be of interest you'd think? But it’s funny, heartbreaking, uplifting and filled with wonderful characters that are surrounded by all the aged suffer from – dementia, lack of family to visit, their bodies failing them and death.

I have no hesitation in recommending The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old as an uplifting, at times hilarious though heartbreaking read.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy to read in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,732 reviews14.1k followers
July 22, 2017
Another I am leaving unrated. After reading 30% I am putting this aside. The format is journal style, a format I usually like but frankly though there are a few funny moments, I am bored with this. An unpopulated stance going by the ratings but have learned something about myself. I seem to like books about elderly women more than those about elderly men.
Profile Image for JimZ.
1,018 reviews459 followers
June 19, 2020
I’d have to give this 4.5 stars so I bumped up to 5 stars. 😊

The book is written in diary format written by an 83-year old man starting January 1, 2013 and ending on New Year’s Eve December 31 of that year. Henrik lives in an assisted living facility (aka ‘care home’) in the Netherlands along with a whole cast of characters some of whom don’t make it to the end of the book because they’re dead. He and some friends did create a club called the “Old-But-Not-Dead-Club” where every other week they go on a field trip…always to fun places (e.g., a cooking class, a Pixar movie). Places more exciting than engaging in sing-alongs at the care home.
Henrik is curmudgeonly, and frequently had me laughing or chuckling or grinning at least every other page of the book. One of his several friends, Evert, was also of this ilk. Most everything that came spilling out of Evert’s mouth is hilarious.

However, the book was also sobering to me because it deals with the vicissitudes of growing old…the physical ailments, the very real possibility of Alzheimer’s Disease, the loneliness, the boredom, the losing of friends and acquaintances at a steadily increasing rate as one approaches and is in the 8th decade of their life. Plus Henrik has had his own personal tragedy in his life — it does not play a significant role in the diary but one might surmise that a day doesn’t go by that he doesn’t think about it. The only point I want to make about the tragedy is that odds are if we make it to the 8th decade of life, something(s) will have befallen us in our lives that are unforgettable in a negative way. It could be something that happened to us, something that happened to a loved one…something…

What I will take away from this book is the funny and the sad. I think this is a better book for me to read at my age (a stone’s throw away from retirement age) to be reminded of what will be in store for me if I make it to 70, 80, or beyond…than if I read a scientific book chapter on “this is what happens as the body ages” and statistics on rate of falls and onset of aging-related maladies. Because it’s all in this book, and I got the sobering message, at the same time not sinking into too deep a funk—because the context of the message was presented in a book that I would say had me laughing or grinning a great deal of the time.

Just a few quotes from the book that I thought were laugh-out-loud material:
• Old people are forever grunting and groaning. …This morning I plucked up the courage and asked Kuiper what made him groan so when he sat down. “Who, me?” he replied, genuinely surprised. For half an hour afterward he didn’t make a sound, but then, slowly but surely, the grunting started up again. It was like women’s tennis. There used to be very little grunting, as far as I’m aware, but nowadays I have to turn down the sounds when watching tennis on TV.
• What you mighty call a stellar day for our home yesterday: one stroke, one broken hip, and one near-asphyxiation on a butter cookie. The ambulance came and went three times in a single afternoon. Mrs. Sitta, seeing the toing and froing of ambulances, asked in bingo would be canceled. “Those of us who are fit shouldn’t have to suffer on account of those who are not,” she brazenly declared. You’d almost wish that at her next bingo game she would have a stroke, break a hip AND choke to death on a cookie.
• Falls are common in here. Sometimes people fall by tripping over a rug, as I did, but often they’ll just keel over for no good reason. Or they’ll sit down and miss the chair. Mrs. Been, getting up from her chair, grabbed the tea cart for support. Someone had failed to lock the wheels, and the trolley tipped over with a great crash. Down went Mrs. Been in a cascade of cookies, sugar cubes, and creamers. A brief silence, and then Mrs. Been, on the floor, began laughing hysterically. Everyone joined in the laughter to be polite, until Mrs. Been’s laughter turned into wailing. It was at that point that someone went to fetch the nurse. I wasn’t there, but it must have been quite a surreal scene.
• When the elevator door slid open, there were already two rollators and one mobility scooter inside, but Mrs. Groenteman thought there was still room for herself and her scooter. She revved the engine a little to hard, sweeping the others into a great pileup. It took half an hour to extricate all the dinged metal and trampled oldies.
• The inhabitants have been informed in a short letter that it is now official: the extensive renovations to this building are to begin in November. “I hope I’ll be dead by then,” said Mrs. Vergeer, and she meant it too. “You should never report an old plant,” said Mr. Apotheker. He must have repeated it at least five times. What an old whiner. If they’re thinking of repotting him, let them plant him head down.

This was originally published in the Netherlands in 2014 (title was “Attempts to Make Something of Life. The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old), published in the UK in 2015 and in the US in 2016. The book was translated from Dutch to English in 2016 by Hester Velmans. On the front cover is “The #1 International Bestseller.” It deserved to be that. 😊

• From a blogger… https://sevencircumstances.com/2017/1...

Interesting tidbit from DutchNews.nl: Who is the real Hendrik Groen? Originally published in Dutch in 2014, the author of this book remained a mystery until recently, leaving readers with the question of whether the diary was indeed the work of Hendrik Groen, and hence a biography rather than a novel, although the nod to Adrian Mole should have been the giveaway. In April 2016, NRC Handelsblad revealed Peter de Smet, a 61-year-old librarian with no previous published written work, as the book’s author.
Profile Image for david.
434 reviews
January 4, 2018
Full disclosure: I love the Netherlands.

This is a somewhat honest account, written by an 84-year-old man (or not); his reflections on residing in a nursing home in Amsterdam.

This country has some of the most progressive inclinations of any modern-day society. It is also an inclusive place where people of all colors and beliefs reside peacefully, for the most part.

It is a land of incongruities. The tallest people in the world walk daily on the smallest sidewalks while it is usually drizzling rain. Cheese stores galore for a mostly fit population. Delftware, the Rhine, bicycles, museums, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, coffee shops (way better than Starbucks), euthanasia, wooden clogs, illuminated districts, canals and…Hendrik Groen.

With little to do, other than survive, and possibly chatting up a hot old babe while dining or playing Klaverjassen, a Dutch card game, Hendrik chose to become a diarist.

The result is a story we all can relate to and possibly, one day, find ourselves remanded, as one of its’ inmates (his word).

From sandbox to sandbox, children we remain.

If I were to offer a suggestion, which I seldom do, it would be to pick up this uniquely told story and chuckle throughout it while learning a thing or two in the process.

It is a sure bet, a no brainer, that it will satiate.

4.5 stars for the narration and .5 stars for this lucid and expressive, octogenarian (impersonator?) satirist.
Profile Image for Maria Bikaki.
793 reviews384 followers
July 4, 2018
«Νομίζω ότι αυτό το έχω ξαναπεί. Μάλλον δεν πρέπει να παραπονιέμαι. Απλώς να προσπαθήσω πιο πολύ να κάνω την κάθε μέρα να αξίζει τον κόπο. Ή τουλάχιστον κάθε δεύτερη μέρα. Πρέπει να υπάρχουν και μέρες ξεκούρασης, ακριβώς όπως στον ποδηλατικό γύρο της Γαλλίας.»

Πόσο πολύ μου άρεσε αυτό το βιβλίο. Πόση ζωή μπορούν να περιέχουν οι σελίδες ενός βιβλίου. Ένα πραγματικά συγκινητικό βιβλίο, οδηγό ζωής από έναν 83χρονο που αποφασίζει να κρατήσει ημερολόγιο για έναν ολόκληρο χρόνο όπου θα καταγράφει τη ζωή του μέσα στο γηροκομείο, τη λέσχη των γέρων αλλά όχι νεκρών όπως του άρεσε να την αποκαλεί. Μέσα από τις καταγραφές του βλέπουμε το πάθος για τη ζωή αυτού του ανθρώπου, ενός ανθρώπου που αρνείται να παραιτηθεί, που όσο αναπνέει έχει όρεξη να κάνει πράγματα, να μαθαίνει, να εξελίσσεται. Οι περιγραφές του το δίχως άλλο απολαυστικές, χορταστικές και άκρως χιουμοριστικές. Ένας τρυφερός και γλυκός επαναστάτης. Ο παππούς που θα θέλαμε όλοι να έχουμε και που η ζωή δίπλα του δε θα ήταν ποτέ βαρετή.
Έκλαψα, γελασα, προβληματίστηκα, συγκίνηθηκα. Απέκτησα και ένα νέο φίλο τον Χεντρικ Χρουν και ξέρετε τι λέει ο φίλος μου;

«Όσο υπάρχουν σχέδια, υπάρχει ζωή Το μεσημέρι θα πάω να αγοράσω μια καινούρια ατζέντα. Και ένα καινούριο σημειωματάριο»

Εμπρός στο δρόμο που τράβηξε ο Χεντρικ Χρουν λοιπόν
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,602 reviews2,572 followers
December 14, 2016
“In our subtropical world of fatuous blabbermouths, you hear at least ten times a morning that everything was better in the old days.” In this anonymous Dutch novel in diary form, Hendrik Groen provides a full reckoning of how 2013 went down in his Amsterdam old folks’ care home. He and five friends form an Old But Not Dead club and take turns planning exciting weekly outings. Much comic relief is provided by his incorrigibly tippling friend, Evert, and the arrival of Eefje even makes late-life romance a possibility for Hendrik.

However, there’s no getting around the fact of physical decay: between them these friends suffer from incontinence, dementia, diabetic amputations and a stroke. By the time 2014 rolls around, after all the upheaval of the year before in the wider world (a new pope and archbishop; a new royal in the Netherlands; the Arab Spring - world events are nicely interwoven) their number will be reduced by one. Yet this is a tremendously witty and warm-hearted book, despite Hendrik’s sad family history. It’s definitely one for fans of A Man Called Ove – but I liked this a fair bit more.
Profile Image for Cynthia Schultz.
Author 21 books1,376 followers
November 21, 2015
Tot nu toe mijn mooiste boek van 2015. Je volgt een jaar lang het dagboek van Hendrik Groen, 83, in het bejaardenhuis. Droog, erg grappig, vertederend en verdrietig. Ik heb veel hardop gelachen om dit verhaal en op het einde veel gehuild. Dat doe ik niet vaak bij een boek. Ik vond het heerlijk. Vreselijk genoten van dit boek.
Profile Image for Evelina | AvalinahsBooks.
859 reviews439 followers
April 4, 2018
Um... what did I just read? And why are people reading this..?

This seems to be basically... what it is. A diary of an old guy. Nothing happens. There is no point to it. I made myself read to see if there's some moral that is coming up, at least, but... nope. Nothing. It's just someone's boring old diary. You could publish this right now. Your cousin could. All it seems to be is a weird commentary of an entire year, like a summary of what happened on the news in snippets through the eyes of a person in an elderly home. Doesn't get any more exciting! Not that I'm being disrespectful - I've read plenty of books that are told through the POV of a person in an elderly home, and some of them have been great. But this? There's no story. No plot. No underlying point. It's not even interesting for the events - cause it's several years old now and I honestly don't remember the miscellany of the time!

The funniest thing? I was denied an ARC of this. Got it in the library. Next time I get denied, I'll consider it a stroke of luck by fate. If this one's anything to judge by :D
Profile Image for Cindy Burnett (Thoughts from a Page).
565 reviews981 followers
September 1, 2019
I wish I could meet Hendrik Groen because I know I would absolutely love him. This book is one of the most touching, heart-wrenching stories that I have read in a while. Groen resides in a state-funded nursing home in Amsterdam. At 83 years old, he decides to start writing in his diary to pass the time and to “give the world an uncensored expose´: a year in the life of the inmates of a care home in North Amsterdam.” Hendrik Groen proceeds to do just that; I cannot count the times I laughed out loud, and plenty of times I cried as well.

Groen hilariously and poignantly chronicles daily life as an 83 year-old. When he begins writing in his diary, he has two people he counts as friends, Evert who lives in the apartment section of the home and Anja, the assistant to the Administrator of the nursing home. The diary provides Groen an outlet for his frustrations about growing old and spurs him to make something of the life he has left. By the time the year is over, he has an entire group of friends, the Old-But-Not-Yet-Dead Club, loyal and kind individuals who work to help each other when illness or tragedy befalls a member. Sadly, several of his friends have health issues during the year, ranging from losing a leg to the onset of Alzheimer’s to having a stroke. Groen details how he personally and the group deals with these issues, and the support they all provide to each other. The group takes occasional day trips together organized by each member on a rotating basis. Reading about their various day trips was definitely a highlight of the book, from the planning to the execution of each trip and the joy the excursions clearly brought the entire bunch. Midway through the year, after debating at length in his diary, Hendrik purchases an electric scooter. His exploits all around Amsterdam and the mobility his scooter provides him lead to several entertaining passages in his diary. He even visits another resident’s son to “soup up his ride.”

While Groen tells many funny tales, he also addresses some very important and pressing issues in today’s society, including funding and care for the aged, Alzheimer’s, euthanasia, and the racism that certain groups still face. He also reinforces the notion that the elderly deserve a great amount of respect and empathy; something that seems to be missing today. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for all walks of life – all ages can learn so much from the knowledge and insight he imparts. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this gem in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for ♥ Sandi ❣	.
1,268 reviews8 followers
August 28, 2017
4 stars

What a wonderful old curmudgeon. Hendrik Groen is in a nursing home - he lives in the assisted living section. He decided to keep a journal for one year. He started his journal on January 1, 2013 when he was 83 years old. Seeing the world through his eyes - and the perspective of his closest friends - The Old But Not Dead Club - was a very humorous undertaking. From his mortification of his "dribbling" and leaving yellow stains in his white underpants, to the suggestion that people go to the "shit clinic" and quit bothering him with their whining about their daily constipation or diarrhea stories while he is trying to take afternoon tea and cake. Hendrik is the Grampa that everyone wishes they had.

This is fiction (however there is some debate) and written by Groen, (Hendrik Groen is an alias, and Meulenhoff is an unknown Amsterdam resident). This is the first book, to be followed up with a sequel in January 2018. Written in a diary format makes it very easy to read and devour, through your tears of laughter. Not to say that there isn't some sad parts, Alzheimers, amputation and death all make themselves known in this book. Life in an Amsterdam nursing home for the elderly - lovingly referred to as "inmates" - is not all ribbons and balloons - however Groen takes most of the aches and pains out of reading this book.
Profile Image for Melanie.
273 reviews132 followers
August 6, 2017
I got this ARC as a give-away from Goodreads.

I waffled between 2 and 3 stars but decided on 3 in the end. While at times touching and laugh out loud funny I was also a bit bored. There was a lot of talk about Netherland politics that I really didn't care about. It took me way too long to read because of that I think. But in the end Hendrik's diary won me over. I really liked reading about him, all of his friends and their antics. I will probably seek out the second book when it is translated see what all the old folks are up to now. Getting old is a bitch!
Profile Image for Maria Roxana.
540 reviews
August 29, 2020
”Ar fi putut fi un an bun și, în parte, a și fost. Însă ce se întâmplă la sfârșit influențează cel mai mult părerea finală. Am întâlnit o persoană pe care aș fi preferat să o întâlnesc acum o jumătate de secol. Acum a trebuit să mă mulțumesc cu opt luni frumoase și două triste. Ar trebui să fiu recunoscător pentru fiecare zi fericită, așa cum face Grietje, și încerc asta din răsputeri, însă puterile astea uneori nu sunt de-ajuns (..)
Câtă vreme există planuri, există viață.”
Profile Image for Louise Wilson.
2,744 reviews1,617 followers
July 31, 2016
Hendrik Groen resides in a Nursing Home funded by the state in North Amsterdam. He decides to start writing a diary. He has two people he can rely on. One being Evert also a resident of the home and Anja the assistant to the Administrator for the home.

This is a funny, heartbreaking day by day revelation of how eccentric residents spend their time and the Old But Not Yet Dead Club they set up where support is given to each other due to their declining health and tragedy.

I would like to thank Net Galley, Penguin UK Michael Joseph and the author Hendrik Groen for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Dajana.
77 reviews28 followers
June 27, 2017
Ovo je beskonačno tužna knjiga, posebno jer imam iskustvo bliskih ljudi koji umiru teško i dugo, a medicinski radnici ih otpisuju jer su 'stari' i 'vreme im je'.
Pored niza duhovitih primedbi, anegdota i zabavnih komentara, ovo je knjiga o svim užasima starenja i društvenoj nevidljivosti ljudi u gerontološkim centrima. Uvek mi je zanimljivo kad čitam u popularnim časopisima o 'tabuima u kulturi' i uvek nekako izostave da pomenu da smo postali kultura koja se baš užasava starih ljudi i juri da ih skloni što dalje. Holandija ima zakon o eutanaziji i njemu je dat ogroman prostor u Hrunovom dnevniku, i premda se pominje usputno i ovlaš, jasno je da je to centralna etička dilema mnogih stanovnika staračkog doma, a i njihovih porodica i lekara.
Ako Holandija, kao bogata zemlja, ima ovakav odnos prema svojim starima (loša hrana, brojne zabrane i kontrole itd.), Hrun se pita kako je tek onima koji nisu imali sreće da se rode u ekonomski stabilnim državama. On je vrlo pronicljiv starac koji komentariše dnevnu politiku, moderne uređaje, navike starih ljudi, sramotne bolesti koje pogađaju telo nad kojim se gubi kontrola (kontrola bešike, neprijatni mirisi, pelene), i mislim da ovo svakako vredi pročitati u vremenu kad često zaboravimo da bakama i dekama naših pola sata ulepša celu sedmicu.
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,074 reviews711 followers
November 25, 2022
This novel's narrative in the form of daily diary entries describes life in an eldercare facility. The individual who is writing these entries and his friends live in the independent living portion of the facility, but they have the option of eating meals prepared and served in the center's dining hall. There are parts of the facility available for full nursing and memory care.

I'll have to grant the author of this novel as having done a good job of taking a living situation of limited appeal and turning it into a fairly interesting story. With dry humor and an optimistic outlook the writing comes across as 365 consecutive short stories with little day to day continuity, but over the span of the year there are clear progressions of various themes including diminished health for some.

Though I credit the writing as being generally up-beat, it also acknowledges the realities of declining health for aged communities—including incontinence, diabetic caused amputations, Alzheimer's, stroke, and death.
What you mighty call a stellar day for our home yesterday: one stroke, one broken hip, and one near-asphyxiation on a butter cookie. The ambulance came and went three times in a single afternoon.
I have witnessed nursing home life during visits to my mother when she lived in one, and I recognized this book to be an acceptably accurate reflection of life in such a place. The focus of this book was those still living independently so they were still able to leave the facility for various activities and appeared to have no difficulties conversing with each other. But one memory I have of those living in full nursing care was how it was nearly impossible for conversations to take place among inhabitants because of the combination of wide spread hearing loss and voices weakened by age. This unfortunate issue was not mentioned in this book.
Profile Image for Gary.
2,614 reviews368 followers
May 24, 2016
'The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ years old' by Hendrik Groen is a year in the life of Hendrik Groen who lives in a nursing home. My only worry when I started this book was whether it could hold my interest for the complete year of the diary. I needn't have worried the book did more than hold my attention it was full of little anecdotes that amused and even laugh out loud at times. There are some wonderful characters in this book and even a love interest. Some of the residents form a club called the 'Old-But-Not Dead Club' and this gives the members new hope and entertainment to help them through their old age.
This book is a frank insight into the life of a grumpy old man who experiences every emotion while living out the year. The book is far better and more entertaining than the write up sounds, so I can recommend this book to anyone who fancies reading something out of the ordinary.

I would like to thank Net Galley and Penguin UK for supplying me with a copy of this novel in exchange for a honest review.
Profile Image for Rebecca Carter.
154 reviews92 followers
October 7, 2016
Hendrik Groen doesn't like old people. Their zimmer frame shuffle, unreasonable impatience, endless complaints, their tea and biscuits, smells or creaking bodies. Although he himself is 83 years old and lives in a residential care home in the Netherlands.

Hendrik is fed up of being a civil, ingratiating, courteous, polite and helpful bloke. He tends to choose the path of least confrontation to try to please everybody. To stop himself spiralling into depression and boredom - in a place where to some residents the most exciting moment of their day is wondering what biscuits will arrive with their tea and coffee - he decides to give the world a taste of the real Hendrikus Gerardus Groen, by writing an uncensored diary into a year in the life of a group of "inmates" (as he calls his fellow residents), in a care home in north Amsterdam. His whistleblowing account shows us what life is really like for people in care homes; the rules, regulations and human interactions.

Although Hendrik finds the majority of the care homes residents a bunch of whingey old, stuck in the past sad sacks, he does have a few close friends who he finds nice, intelligent and, most importantly, not one whiner among them. They are the other members of The Old but Not Dead Club, an exclusive club where they plan days out and intend to not let old age get in the way of having a good time.

Among them are the kind hearted and thoughtful, Eefje Brand, who recently moved into a room Mrs De Gans "vacated" and to whom he strikes up a sweet, close and heart warming friendship. His cheeky and mischievous friend Evert Duiker, who lives independently around the corner in sheltered accommodation with his dog Mo who farts a lot. Whenever Everts grout plays up Walter visits and takes his dog for a walk, helps him out with things or just enjoys an afternoon chat and "a glass of something or other" - usually wine, gin, brandy or whisky.
Edward Schermer who doesn't say much and is hard to understand because of his stroke, but when he does speak you know it'll be worth it.
Grietje de Boer, a lovely lady, who is friendly and sympathetic without fawning, and Graeme Gorter who appears insecure and introverted but always tells it to you straight.
The Old But not Dead Club then spawned a monthly cooking club, plus another two members - Ria and Antoine Travemundi.

I really enjoyed this book; it's funny, I laughed out loud in a few parts, moving, poignant, uplifting, thought provoking and makes you appreciate, understand and have more of an insight into old people and their day to day lives and obstacles. It reminds me of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole which I read while at school, albeit with the protagonist being from a different generation.

Being a book about older people there are obviously some sad and heart tugging moments, but these are soon lifted by another funny and uplifting anecdote from Hendrik. You do wonder where the residential housing system for older people will end up, being already encumbered with budgets and financial constraints. Maybe the current generation of oap's will be one of the last to be in the current western system of aged care housing? Although the system clearly has many downsides and areas that need vastly improving on, which the book highlights, it does provide free care and housing in a safe environment for vulnerable old people. It's slightly worrying to think where my generation and younger will end up in old age.

It's definitely not a depressing read, don't let the thought of a book about residents in a care home deter you. There are tons of witty funny moments with Hendrik and his friends getting into all sorts of trouble and fun to pass their days. Such as the time Hendrik is invited in for a cup of tea with Mrs Visser which resulted in Fish Gate- three slices of cake, 6 pink fondant fancies and two fish tank massacres. Their day trips out with the Old But Not Dead Club which results in the other residents feeling a bit bitter, a few pet catastrophes, souped up mobility scooters as status symbols, dribbling and horse meat lasagne.

Hendrik is a great role model on how to grow old and not let age be a determent. I love his attitude towards life and hope that if I'm lucky enough to reach his age that I have the same zest for life as he does. This book is uplifting, moving and funny and can be enjoyed either in large chunks, or because of the diary format, read over a longer period of time.

Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for an ARC.
Profile Image for Fictionophile .
1,025 reviews331 followers
February 27, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Stephen Clynes.
527 reviews30 followers
August 25, 2016
83 year old Hendrik Groen lives at a care home in Amsterdam. Here is his 2013 diary.

I got a lot from reading this book, the format is rather good. Remember when people published personal blogs on the web, rather than these very short snippets we now get from Facebook and Twitter? Well, Hendrik’s diary entries are very much like the best of blogs. You have a lovely mix of personal life, current day cultural trends and landmark historical occasions.

This book enables you to enter the very often closed world of life for 80 plus year olds in residential care homes. Although this book is set in Amsterdam, the attitudes, issues and problems are worldwide.

Hendrik’s diary entries are not simple prose but lengthy rants about whatever has got Hendrik’s goat that day. The language used is not simple but very mature and his range of vocabulary is spectacular.

This book brings an intelligent look at the daily life of residents in a care home. It explains what is important to them in their sunset years. I can see parts of this book being used in staff training sessions across a range of industries to explain to workers how the elderly think and understand their world. I found this book very useful and not just in relating to elderly passengers travelling on my National Express coach. My own father is also 83 years old and this month has just moved into a residential care home in Cardiff. This book helped me to see things through my dad’s eyes too. Not only does it give an 83 year old’s take on care homes, other residents, cultural changes and historical events but also the challenges posed to residents who have dementia. Because of the way dementia creeps on, I was blind to my father developing vascular dementia and just thought he was getting old and not bothering to compete for conversation between my mother and my wife. I was concerned how my father would cope with being split away from my mother, put into a care home and accepting his own dementia.

I found this book helpful, informative and reassuring. It allowed me to enter my father’s world and see it from his eyes. When I read this, I thought “that’s my dad!”...

Everyone in here has strong views on the subject of cake crumbs in fish tanks. But ask them what they think of the war in Syria and they’ll stare at you as if you’ve just asked them to explain the theory of relativity. A handful of fish floating belly-up are a thousand times worse than a busload of women and children blown to smithereens in some far-off country.

...I took a lot from this book and found it a pleasure to read. There is a lovely humour that runs through this book that is all deprecating, for example…

So indeed, yesterday I attended ‘Feel Good Fitness’. It was my first time. And also my last. When it was over and the instructor - ‘Call me Tina’ - gushed that I should definitely come again next week, I told her right then and there that once was enough. ‘Oh, and why is that?’ she asked suspiciously. ‘Because with so much female pulchritude about, I can’t concentrate on the exercises properly. I stiffen up.’

… I really liked this book and it was great to enter Hendrik’s world on such an intimate and personal level. Even if you do not have an elderly relative living in a care home, it is great read in the way that reality television fails to capture. It is a very good reading experience that I will vote the top score of 5 stars because it is entertaining, informative and rather witty.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Penguin for giving me a copy of this book on the understanding that I provide an honest review.
Profile Image for Ertl.
90 reviews25 followers
January 14, 2019
Hendrik'i ben çok sevdim; huysuz, iyi gözlem yapan, yaşlılardan nefret eden bir yaşlı :) okurken çok güldüm, gözlemlediği şeyleri ifade ettiği anlarda sesli güldüğüm bile oldu yani. edebi olarak kıymetli midir bilemem?

bizim huzurevi dediğimiz ortamlara biraz aşinalık kazanıyor insan bu kitapla. tabi ki Hollanda'daki şanslı yaşlıların dünyasına.

neyse kitap hakkında söyleyebileceğim tek şeyim, çok tatlısın Hendrik Groen! sen beni güldürdün, ömrün kendine bakabildiğin kadar çok olsun.

"Hollanda bir apartheid toplumudur; beyazlar beyazlarla, Türkler Türklerle, yoksullar yoksullarla, beyinsizler beyinsizlerle yaşar." Hendrik Groen.

Bir de unutmuşum yazmayı; ötenazi çok elzem bir hak. Hendrik'in doktoruyla bunu konuşabilmesi, üzerine düşünmesi garip bir üzüntü yaratmasına rağmen bu hakka sahip olmak büyük lüks gercekten.
Profile Image for Judy.
462 reviews39 followers
November 25, 2017
What a touching read. Truly this is up there with the best ones I have read. It was recommended to me by my dad's primary health professional with the words that it is one of the funniest, most poignant and cutting reads about old age you will come across. And it is.
Age is something we will all be negotiating if we are one of the fortunate ones to navigate a full span of decades in life. This guy Hendrik Groen gives a glimpse into that world we all, if we are honest, all sort of mock. That world inside the "dreaded aged care facility"
It was a joy to rediscover a word that has been out of my vocabulary since my mums passing, that glorious word "Kerfuffle". I shall remind myself to keep it in circulation. Mum always used it with such flair.
This is a book containing intrigue, and arson attacks and romance and complicated political manoeuvrings. The writers dark, wry wit shines out as he examines each day over the course of a year. I imagine that anyone with family will enjoy this read, provided they don't trip over the load of guilt they are carrying around about the amount of time they spend with their elders or the choices they have made for their loved ones.
Old age, with all it's indignities will come to us all, we hope.
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