Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old by Hendrik Groen
Hester Velmans (Translator)

Grand Central Publishing: 7/11/17
eBook review copy; 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9781455542178

"I made the decision to give the world a little taste of the real Hendrik Groen. I hereby declare that in this diary I am going to give the world an uncensored exposé: a year in the life of the inmates of a care home in North Amsterdam." As quoted from The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, a recommended novel, highly for the right reader.

There are some funny lines: "Of the five senses, my nose still works best. Which is not always a blessing in here. It smells of old people." There are some sad, poignant moments, and some very realistic scenes, but much of the book has an optimistic feel, sort of shenanigans among the elderly, even as the people around him struggle with their health and other issues. Along with the retelling of the daily events, there is commentary about care for the elderly.

Henry has his list of complaints and topics he discusses with his doctor, but he is still alive so he has decided to write a dairy exposing all the daily occurrences and happenings at the retirement home where he lives with an assortment of other "inmates." He discusses (quite a bit) his dribbles and move to wearing an adult diaper, the outings of the Old-But-Not-Dead Club, his mobility scooter, his friends amputations due to diabetes, another friends worsening dementia, and the on-going questioning of the director about the policies of the home.

It is written in the diary format, so the plot is the daily events in the care home as seen through Hendrik's musings, thoughts, or stories. Although it is being compared to A Man Called Ove, the comparison didn't hold up for me. It's not necessarily bad, it's just not as well written. While I initially enjoyed it, I soon tired of the format along with the novel. Additionally, serious health problems and facing death can also come to those who are much younger than these residents. (I will concede that perhaps this wasn't a good week for me to read this one. I don't regret reading it, but I was glad when it was over.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.

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