Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old. Henrik Groen. Translated by Hester Velmans. 2017. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: 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.

Premise/plot: This is the 'diary' of Hendrik Groen. The jacket flap reads, "There's not one sentence that's a lie, but not every word is true." The novel spans the year 2013, and readers should know it's set in the Netherlands. It was originally titled, "Attempts to Make Something of Life." Essentially, our hero is bored with life in his retirement home. He starts a club, the OLD BUT NOT DEAD CLUB. Membership is limited to only the best of the best, his closest friends--his friends with the best sense of humor, his friends that still find moments of joy despite the aches, pains, worries, and fears of life. Each member plans an outing for the group. I'm sure I'll accidentally leave out one of his friends, but to the best of my ability the members are: Evert, Edward, Ria, Antoine, Grietje, and most importantly Eefje.

My thoughts: Our hero challenges himself to write in his diary every day. The original title perhaps captures his ambitions better.
Live as if today were your last day. (129)
Maybe I shouldn't grumble so much. I should just work harder at making sure that every day is worth living. Or at least every other day. There have to be rest days too, just like the ones in the Tour de France. (140)
His diary entries record what he's done that day (if anything), who he spent time with, what made him happy--or sad, or mad, etc. Also what he's feeling or thinking. The novel covers such a wide range of emotions. The book is at time funny and at other times depressing.
We lose some capacities as we age, but being a busybody isn't one of them. (292)
I heard that, on the heels of hospital clowns for sick children, special clowns are being deployed to cheer up lonely old folks. I don't know what they're called or where they come from, but I should like to warn them in advance: if any clown arrives to brighten my day, so help me God, I'll use my last ounce of strength to bash his jovial skull in with a frying pan. (276)
Someone ought to bring a class-action lawsuit against the packaging industry for physical damage and mental distress. They have to be doing it on purpose. If they can send people to the moon, surely they ought to be able to come up with an easy twist-off lid. (157)
One of my favorite quotes is on the last page of the novel. But to share it would be to spoil the novel for everyone else. So I won't. But note to self: I really loved the last page even if I was getting ready to put the entire book in the freezer for the last hundred pages.

Another note to self: This one openly discussed the idea of assisted suicide and euthanasia as a great positive. I was really worried for a while that this would come to be the main theme of the book and that this would be a hammer-you-over-the-head issue book. It never became that. And thinking big picture, it would only be natural that on any given day in a year a person would be/could be depressed now and then.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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