This review is written with thanks to Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin UK, and Netgalley for my copy of The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old.
Hendrik Groen is, as the title suggests, 83 1/4 years old. He lives in a care home, but he is determined to make the most of the time he has left. Along with his friends, Evert, Eefje and Grietje, he founds The Old But Not Dead Club, and together, they embark on several exciting activities, much to the disgruntlement of the care home staff and other residents. This fictional diary is Hendrik's candid account of daily life in the care home.
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old has a very matter of fact tone. This could, in part, be attributed to the translation, as the diary was originally published in Dutch. Whatever the reason for the tone, it is an important aspect of the diary, as it provides the humour in the book which makes it so easy to read. A particular favourite moment was the incident of the cake in the fish tank, which highlighted the mischievous character of Evert. The development of characters as the diary progresses allows the reader to empathise with them, and this increases the poignancy of some of the anecdotes, particularly towards the end of the diary.
Although the diary is set in the Netherlands, it raises several issues that are relevant to elderly care in the UK. The author tackles issues such as illness and cuts to care provision, and this allows the reader to consider what life is like for people who live in similar homes. Although this is usually achieved through the use of humour, the realisation that the diary represents reality for many older people means that the book takes its reader on a very emotional journey.
Unfortunately, whilst the realistic nature of the book is one of its strengths, it is also its biggest downfall. As life in the care home is slow and mundane, this is reflected in the pace of the book. This caused me to lose interest at times, especially towards the middle, where the plot develops very little.
Overall, I enjoyed The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old and the insight it gave me into life in a care home. Although it is different to my usual choice of reading material, I found it to be a very heartwarming read.
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old is released on 25th August and is available from Amazon.