“Another year, and I still don’t like old people. Their walker shuffle, their unreasonable impatience, their endless complaints, their tea and cookies, their bellyaching. Me? I am eighty-three years old.”
— Hendrik Groen, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old
There’s nothing like jolting down your daily activities and thoughts on a piece paper and be able to look back on these logs to reflect on life. Journalistic entries can also serve as a great method to create structure and routine into ones life. Through them, as personal as they can be, you can learn a lot about a person’s way of life, about the people around them and about the time period they’re in. After all, values, beliefs and practices change over time. But what’s truly beautiful is that once you get used to writing a diary, it sort of becomes an instinct that’s hard to detach yourself from as the pros overshadow the cons. And so, Hendrik Groen explores the world of diaries by writing one of his own as an octogenarian. This book is his uncensored exposé in which he offers us « a year in the life of the inmates of a care home in North Amsterdam ». Embodying cynicism, Hendrik Groen gives us a humour-filled look at his surroundings, the people he meets and his precious rebellious thoughts as a man who sees it all.
The book is filled with entries from January 1st 2013 till the next year. There are a couple days that are skipped, other days that have entries longer than a page and some days were entries are not longer than a little paragraph. There’s no real coherence or linearity to this book, as it should be expected from a diary after all. Life is filled with unexpected events and your willpower varies from one day to the other. Even your emotions come dictate the way you live in the moment. Through Hendrik Groen you quickly recognize the ramblings, but also his desire to make his life worthwhile even at his age. While routine is dominant and our protagonist knows this, it is destroying that very curse that drives Hendrik Groen. Although life will continuously throw curve balls at you, it is the form that they take and how you deal with them that Hendrik Groen subtlety highlights. However, while you’d imagine that the life of elders in a retirement home would be pretty dull and empty of life, this book quickly retorts with some of the most unexpected array of events.
Whether they’re hilarious moments or absolutely saddening accidents, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen is far from being lifeless. For someone who enjoys studying individuals and their interactions within groups, I thought this book was a fantastic look into an environment that had its fair share of issues. Through the eyes of the curmudgeon Hendrik Groen, the social interactions as well as the norms and rules that wraps up the retirement home were absolutely intriguing. I definitely enjoyed our protagonists comparison of the environment to a prison and how they’d compare themselves to other retirement homes. It was like reading an in-depth analysis of everything right and wrong about the structure and not being able to do anything about it. This book honestly felt like a direct and immersed observation of the lives of elders left to find their way as life slowly leaks out of them. In fact, Hendrik Groen serves us with a very human experience of people who are generally seen as a hassle to deal with as everyone else is busy dealing with their teenage or adult lives.
Personally, it is pretty hard for a book to genuinely make me laugh out loud or even make me exude emotions for strangers to stare at. When they do, they generally out to be instant favourites of mine. Unfortunately, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen didn’t have me rolling on the floor laughing at the humour that it had. However, I can assure you that it isn’t the humour that’s at fault. In fact, there are some pretty solid moments that were quite funny, but what truly caught my attention is all the introspection and thoughts that Hendrik Groen shared with us through this diary on the life of elders. Throughout this book you’ll find yourself in front of a lot of unfortunate deaths and you’ll often see the struggle that old age will have on your willpower or even just your physical strength. Hendrik Groen also has a couple of entries where him and his fellow “inmates” discuss about dementia or alzheimer. There’s nothing more sad than to know the inevitable and be without recourse. This is one diary that hides loads of wisdom to keep in mind as you get older. There’s a lot that simply isn’t within your grasp as you get older and this book shows you why through its humour, but also through its truth.
THANK YOU TO HACHETTE BOOK GROUP CANADA FOR SENDING US A COPY FOR REVIEW!
Are you interested in The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old?
How about you read this book for yourself!
You can purchase your copy @Amazon Canada or @Chapters Indigo now!
Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comment section below and follow us for more content!
MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★☆☆/