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Meet Hendrik Groen. An octogenarian in a care home who has no intention of doing what he's told. To that end, he creates the Old-But-Not-Dead Club and with his fellow members sets about living his final years with careless abandon. Such anarchism infuriates the care home director but pleases Eefje, the woman who makes Hendrik's heart palpitate.
Soon, the club comes to the attention of management staff and other residents who are clearly irked by the fact that the club Although Dutch readers may get more pleasure from this book due to insider knowledge of the local politics and age care policies, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old does have universal appeal and the novel has been taking the world by storm. Incorporating issues of euthanasia, advanced care directives, funding for aged care, family support availability and the broader question of what to do with older people who lose their independence – gives the book international relevance. In addition, these issues are covered with humour from the older person’s perspective, a voice not usually heard but one that should be central to the discussion.
Who is the real Hendrik Groen? Originally published in Dutch in 2014, the author of this book remained a mystery until recently, leaving readers with the question of whether the diary was indeed the work of Hendrik Groen, and hence a biography rather than a novel, although the nod to Adrian Mole should have been the giveaway. In April 2016, NRC Handelsblad revealed Peter de Smet, a 61-year-old librarian with no previous published written work, as the book’s author. The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old was translated by Hester Velmans. It is published by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books. A great read with characters who will remain in your thoughts long after you have finished reading. Not belly-aching funny, yet very enjoyable. Ana McGinley
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