Jul 13

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old reviewed by Milly Adams

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I have just visited an older friend who has moved into an assisted living complex. I stayed in the guest room for the weekend – and swam amongst the community, each with their own apartments, but with a restaurant, and lounges. There are also clubs run by the ‘inmates’ as my friend calls them within the complex which is in the centre of town. (She is an artist and runs an art group for them.)

Each day we trotted across the road for breakfast in one of the many enormously reasonable cafes in the town – and find lunch and dinner too , or had it within the complex. We never had a dull moment. I was exhausted, played out with the joy of it all. My friend keeps me in hysterics with her tales of life as an old ‘un because after a settling in period she is thriving. She lets me know when another has dropped off her perch. Too much riotous living I think as they live, live, live, though not expensively.

What’s more, she’s not used her cooker yet.

So yes, I couldn’t wait to read The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83¼ Years Old

Be still my beating heart – what a belter, what a joy, or is it just me who loves quirky, funny, moving stories.

Dear old Hendrik keeps a diary as the days go by in his old folks home, noting on page one a plate of buns placed for a moment on a chair, a plate which is sat upon by the bearer of an over large bottom, said buns then decorate said bottom when it rises – not necessarily fetchingly, but certainly impressively , and so it goes on. He thinks it amusing, others do not. Eager to please he grovels.

However steadily the worm turns.

He sets up the anarchic Old-But-Not -Dead-Club, and lives up to the name… pursuing the lost love of his life, who turns up at the same home. Will he, won’t he live life to the full, with her?

Set in Amsterdam, it is becomes clear that Hendrik locates a whiff of Dylan Thomas about himself, and has no intention of going  gentle into that dark night, but will rage, rage at the dying of the light. But he doesn’t rage, he reports, he lives, worries, loves, shows us glorious characters and their behaviour, and generally, increasingly finds himself, and makes things happen.

I strongly advise you to laugh, weep a little, recognise yourself or others – we all know his fellow ‘inmates’ – take a glass of something deeply alcoholic, and join in the romp because with luck we’ll all be 83¼ one day and should use this as our guide.

You will love it.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Goren 83¼ Years Old:  pub by in pb Penguin. £7.99 and ebook.

Author? Anonymous – how intriguing.