Review: The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old

James Walton

This mysterious book—from a truly anonymous author—unravels the realities of ageing in a Dutch care home. Turns out, it's not all doom and gloom. James Walton is pleasantly surprised…

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/2 years old review

Here’s a book that’s provoked quite a fuss—partly because it’s been a huge best-seller in Holland, but mostly because the identity of the anonymous author is a genuine mystery.

Is he really an octogenarian writing from inside an Amsterdam care home? Or is he an established author pretending to be?     

Either way, the book is terrific. Right from the first sentence (“Another year, and I still don’t like old people”), Hendrik Groen never sentimentalises his subject. He writes straightforwardly about physical decline and the fear of Alzheimer’s.

And yet, despite his own fears that his diary may be too gloomy, this is by no means a depressing book.

 

 

"The identity of the anonymous author is a genuine mystery"

 

 

For one thing, Groen and a few like-minded residents form the Old-But-Not-Dead club, and rather surprise themselves by what good times they have.

For another, there’s a bracing note of defiance, as Groen flouts the house rules and ruminates on the treatment of the elderly.

Whatever its source, the result is a sharp, poignant, funny and entirely convincing portrait of old age in all its aspects. 

 

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