Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for On The Bright Side by Hendrik Groen. I loved reading Hendrik’s first diary and couldn’t resist when invited to take a look at this ‘new’ secret diary. A massive thanks to Sam Deacon for inviting me to be a part of the tour. I’ll be sharing my thoughts in a moment after we have taken a look at what the book is all about.
The Official Book Blurb
‘A funny but also touching diary praised for its wit and realism’ BBC Radio 4 Front Row
The Old-But-Not-Dead Club return, in the sequel to the INTERNATIONALLY BESTSELLING The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old, bringing with them some life-affirming lawlessness.
Chaos will ensue as 85-year-old Hendrik Groen is determined to grow old with dignity: to rise up against the care home director. NO more bingo. NO more over- boiled vegetables. NO more health and safety.
85-year-old Hendrik Groen is fed up to his false teeth with coffee mornings and bingo. He dreams of escaping the confines of his care home and practising hairpin turns on his mobility scooter. Inspired by his fellow members of the recently formed Old-But-Not-Dead Club, he vows to put down his custard cream and commit to a spot of octogenarian anarchy.
But the care home’s Director will not stand for drunken bar crawls, illicit fireworks and geriatric romance on her watch. The Old-But-Not-Dead Club must stick together if they’re not to go gently into that good night. Things turn more serious, however, when rumours surface that the home is set for demolition. It’s up to Hendrik and the gang to stop it – or drop dead trying . . .
He may be the wrong side of 85, but Hendrik Groen has no intention of slowing up – or going down without a fight.
I can only hope that if and when I reach the ripe old age of eighty that I do it with the same grace, spirit and humour as Hendrik Groen and his friends in the Old But Not Dead club. If you have not read the first book in this series, do not let that put you off. If you have ever considered the possibility of keeping a diary, perhaps actually kept one yourself, or even if you are just a fan of Adrian Mole, this book is totally going to be worth reading. Even if you are just an old misery guts, or know someone who is then read it. I guarantee this will give you a chuckle.
Set in Hendrik’s relatively small world of his care home, this book charts a year in Hendrik’s life in his own words. Hendrik is a grand old chap at the ripe age of 85 years. Spirited but also haunted, this book is both witty and emotive, poignant and just outright chucklesome. The book captures the spirit, and sometimes lack there of, of the aged residents of a Netherlands care home, whilst also providing a strong socio political commentary on the state of social care, and of politics in general. Although set in the Netherlands, there are so many issues which translate across borders that some of it will have you nodding in recognition and angry at times too. Nothing passes Hendrik by and, set in 2015, it captures a lot of the unrest surrounding immigration, terrorism, and some of the sheer horrors that occurred in that year attributable to the two.
Now I won’t say too much about the story, that is Hendrik’s to tell, not mine, but suffice to say that, one year on from the first dairy, Hendrik has had some time to reflect upon the loves and losses of that first incredible year of journal keeping. Hendrik and his chums are in their dotage. It is inevitable that some will be lost along the way, their impact charted in Hendrik’s works, some holes which are left that much harder and deeper to fill than others. And it seems as though all may be lost for all of the residents as fears arise that the home may be due for closure. What this means for Hendrik and the other ‘inmates’ who can tell.
There are some colourful new characters introduced in this book as well as the far from politically correct or genteel old ones. Evert is a scream, not thwarted by the lack of one leg due to diabetes. He is as incorrigible as ever and prone to pulling the odd prank. And Hendrik’s odd escapades out and about on his mobility scooter with his Old-But-Not-Dead (OBND) cohort Geert lead to many an amusing anecdote. The OBDN group have continued their excursions, as well as introducing a regular three weekly international meal night, one which includes their first experience of ‘McDonalds’ and some kind of ‘McFish’ dish. Hendrik has a refreshing honesty about him, does not take himself or his fellow ‘inmates’ seriously, and this is reflected in the candid and witty prose.
Now I will not lie, for all the laughter and chuckles this book produced, and there were many of those, it is also a book which is able to reduce a reader to tears. That reader being me. There was a scene towards the end which really choked me, the simple honesty with which Hendrik and his friends marked the passing of a beloved OBND member a really moving moment that brought tears to my eyes. Now the characters being the age they are, there is an inevitability about their impending demise, but it doesn’t make it matter any less. These are people you will grow to know and love and the impact they have upon me as a reader has been great.
This isn’t a fast read. It doesn’t need to be. The journalistic nature of the structure lends itself to being read over a period of time. Remember that this charts a whole year in Hendrik’s life, not necessarily a new entry for every day, but certainly covering a lot of action. And do not underestimate the amount of mischief, high jinks and plain old fun a group of octogenarians can have in twelve months.
I do love these books. I hope this won’t be the last. Although down at the end of this book, Hendrik is most certainly not yet out. This is the guy I would love to have been my Grandad. I reckon he’d be a scream.
My thanks to the publishers, Michael Joseph, for the advance copy of the book for review. On The Bright Side – The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen is available from 11th January from the following retailers:
About the Author
Hendrik Groen started his diaries on the literary website of Torpedo Magazine. He says about his work: ‘There’s not one sentence that’s a lie, but not every word is true.’ His first diary, the international bestseller The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old has been translated into over thirty languages and is being adapted for television. His second diary went straight to number 1 in the Netherlands. He is currently working on a standalone novel.
A Note on the Translator: Hester Velamns is the author of two popular children’s novels and a translator specialising in modern fiction. Her translation of Renate Dorrenstein’s A Heart of Stone won the Vondel Prize for Translation and was Barnes & Nobele Discover Great New Writers selection. Her translation of Lulu Wang’s The Lily Theatre was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
Make sure to check out some of the other blogs taking part in this tour. And do check out the book. You know you want to.