Hester Velmans- ‘The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old’ & ‘On the Bright Side The NEW Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen’

the secret diary of hendrik groenon the bright side










What are they about: 

Fairly self-explanatory.  These books are the secret diaries of fictional character Hendrik Groen, and the reason I’ve reviewed them together is simply that I love the same things about them.  Hendrik Groen is (at the beginning) 83 1/4 years old, and lives in a care home in (I think) Amsterdam.  In the care home, he and his friends decide to live out their final years in style through the launch of ‘The Old But Not Dead Club’.  The club appears to have 2 key aims at the outset, the first being to have a good time, and the second to spy on and detect the suspected wrongdoings of Stelwagen the care home director.  The best way to describe these books is charming.  Hendrik is an extremely likeable character, and the accounts of his day to day existence of he and his friends (and enemies) are both humourous and touching.

What I Love:

  • I love how cheerful and irreverent these books are whilst still covering sad and often poignant moments.  With Groen and his friends, Velman manages to capture a real sense of joie de vivre, emphasised by the humorous accounts of the preoccupations of the non ‘Old But Not Dead Club’ members.  They are also excellent role models for those in their late eighties, and those younger but aspiring to a ripe old age.
  • In a society that tends to relegate older people as ‘less than’ Velmanns work is a timely illustration that the lives and emotions of older people are as all-consuming and passionate as those of everyone else- there’s not an expiry date on the capacity to be consumed by love and grief.
  • The ongoing analysis of the

My Favourite Quotes: 

  • “My fastest sprint time in the 100-metre is currently 1 minute a 27 seconds,  I timed myself yesterday… My one-and-a-half minute sprint required five minutes on a bench to recover.”
  • “I wish I could try one of those new-fangled pills that make it possible for youngsters to dance and rave for hours on end, but I don’t dare.  Not that I want to rave for hours on end but I would like to spend a little more time partying at an an acceptably dignified and serene pace.”
  • “Doctor, you want me to drag myself all the way over to Groningen in order to confirm something we already know: I have brittle bones.  These bones are eighty-six years old, you understand.”

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