Gransnet forums

Books/book club

October book club

(101 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 28-Sep-16 16:00:24

Our October book is The Secret Diary of Hendrick Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old (read more about it HERE

Winners should be receiving their copies in the next few days. Don't forget that if you do get one you will need to add your thoughts and reviews* (marking any spoilers clearly) on this thread by the end of October.

*No questions this'll see why in this from Publishers Weekly

"In the media there has been a lot of speculation about who Hendrik Groen could be. Is he an actual octogenarian? Is he a famous Dutch writer? A well-known Dutch stand-up comedian? He remains anonymous, and the only thing that his publisher has revealed is that he is currently writing another diary."

Purpledaffodil Wed 26-Oct-16 07:38:16

I really enjoyed this book and was not surprised to read it had been translated into over 30 languages. It appears that ageing with its pleasures and indignities has a universal aspect. Although written from a Dutch perspective, many of the characters were very recognisable and the anarchic pleasures of the Old but not Dead Club, most enjoyable.
It is unusual to find a funny book which also contains great sadness. Much to the author and much wine to his friend Evert.

Gagagran Wed 26-Oct-16 08:03:21

I wasn't sure that I would like this book from the cover, which I think is slightly off-putting, but in fact it turned out to be the best one I have read for a very long time.

From the first pages it is laugh-out-loud funny but also touching, witty and insightful.It covers both the friendships and indignities of old age with self-deprecation and real understanding.

I only hope that I can emulate Hendrik in my own old age which is now not very far away.

I would also like to pay tribute to the translator, Hester Velmans whose phrasing and English idiom is spot on. This is a gem of a book and the only question I can pose is:

Please can we have more from Hendrik?

granh1 Wed 26-Oct-16 10:56:38

The setting for this book is a care home in Holland. Henrick is elderly, but fighting to enjoy the rest of his life, or at least make the best of it. He, and a group of friends start the “Old but not Dead” club, which plans outings to help stop their decline into old age, by keeping mind and body active.

His writing questions the way care homes are run, with more emphasis on rules and regulations than on people. ‘ Pets are forbidden with the exception of fish or birds, as long as they do not exceed 10 or 20cm in length respectively’. ‘Thermostats in residents rooms are not to be set above 23 degrees’ Travel restrictions on moving around – much safer (and easier) if people sit in chairs.

His writing is full of humour. Fish fed unwanted cake, and suffering because of it; a canary accidentally hovered up; the antics of old folks on mobility scooters.

There are serious issues he brings up though – funding for care, a society where the generations have no time for each other, managing the decline into dementia, refusing to consider euthanasia against the wishes of people who have written to say they do not want to continue when the quality of life if minimal.

This is a book about trying to be positive and cheerful while balanced on the top of the slippery slope to death. It is full of observations about the present, thoughts of the past and such sadness when friends around him are suffering.

Anyone of a certain age will identify with the book, and hopefully try to be a positive oldie!

There is no acknowledged author, which is a pity - I would like to thank him for such a thought provoking book!

rocketstop Fri 28-Oct-16 12:00:11

I have just finished this book. I really enjoyed it, but really, why does Hendrik Groen have to be a famous writer or a comedian or whatever? Why can't he just be a normal human being who suffers love and loss and embarrassment just like the rest of us ? To make the Author out to be something more than that might be doing his writing a great disservice. I found the book refreshingly honest and liked the fact that even when you're old and a lot of hope is lost, if you have a fighting feisty spirit, you can still see the beauty in things.

annsixty Fri 28-Oct-16 13:07:34

If I was expecting Sue Townsend ( which perhaps I was) I was in for a disappointment. It is humorous in parts but more about the trials of getting old and trying to find some purpose in the life that is left. It actually is sad. The homes for older people in Holland are very different to the ones I have known in the UK. It is not a book for those approaching 80 and over, which I am, nevertheless I did enjoy it.

appygran Fri 28-Oct-16 14:38:32

A belated thank you for this book which I have just finished and really enjoyed reading. Initially I thought it was going to be a rage about ageing but as I got to know the main character Hendrick, I really warmed to him. I found him gentle, intelligent, insightful, humorous, self deprecating and likeable. I think I am his number 2 fan.

My husband has just started to read the book and I can hear him laughing out loud which surprises me as I found it rather sad. I guess we all bring our own experience and individual perspective into our reading of any book.

I understand that the author is writing another book and look forward to reading it.

Dannydog1 Fri 28-Oct-16 21:37:40

Only received my copy a couple of days ago. The man of the house has stolen it to read- and he doesn't usually read fiction so looks like a hit.

grandMattie Sun 30-Oct-16 15:18:45

What a charming book! I didn’t like it at first, because I felt that the author tried too hard to be funny - it was pretty relentless; but as one read further it changed into being gently leg-pulling and self-deprecatory.
The protagonist shows that it is possible to grow old gracefully and with fun, even if one is 83 ¼. The idea of the “Old-but-not-Dead” club was a stroke of genius and lit up many days for the members, residents [or inmates] of the Amsterdam Home.
It is sad, funny, sweet, kind and perceptive about old age. A lovely read. Thank you.

Dannydog1 Sun 30-Oct-16 19:39:00

Back with initial thoughts on the book. My husband is enjoying reading it and found it amusing from the first page,actually laughing out loud. He takes residents out and about from a local care home and certainly finds it true to life. Not far enough into the book to comment on the more serious and sad aspects that are apparently there. I will certainly be reading it when he has finished with it.

mbody Mon 31-Oct-16 08:04:28

Just managed to finish this book by the end of the month. Enjoyed reading it, was quite an easy read but would now and again give you pause for thought with some unexpected and quite touching bits.

cornergran Mon 31-Oct-16 08:25:26

I mostly enjoyed this book, some parts were very funny, other parts saddened me at the universal struggle in older age. I was interested in the difference between the care home structure described and that I am aware of in the UK. For me the cover doesn't do justice to the book, I probably wouldn't have picked it up in a book shop. My Dad used to refer to himself and other residents of his retirement complex as inmates - wonder who coined the phrase first? I've been thinking who to pass this book on to now and suspect one of my younger friends, not sure why but I suspect those in their eighties might find some of the book difficult reading.

Auntieflo Mon 31-Oct-16 09:14:58

I will not finish this book by the end of the month, but I am enjoying the read. At first I was not sure of the style, now I find Henke has grown on me, and I love his gentle humour. Thank you for the book

DavidH22 Mon 31-Oct-16 10:32:48

I realised some time ago that growing old is not for softies but by page 10 I was seriously thinking of heading for the nearest cliff. Is this what could lie ahead as I get older? The story has its touching and tender moments but dribbling, dementia, falls and strokes are a bit too close to the bone for me. I certainly did not find myself laughing out loud but felt rather sad by the time I finished the book. Perhaps it's an age thing. It offered nothing new over questions such as taking care of the elderly or choices over the end of one's life which was disappointing.

joannapiano Mon 31-Oct-16 13:58:37

My first thought was that this book could have been written by many experienced staff in such establishments.
DD1 runs a team sent to train carers and management in care homes and often tells us of quite funny, sometimes very sad, happenings.
I found some parts quite depressing.Is this all I have to look forward to?
I can't work out if the author had a target age range in mind to enjoy his book.
It certainly didn't appeal to me, at 67.

matson Mon 31-Oct-16 18:20:48

A brilliant depiction of growing old disgracefully! Sad, funny,scarey at the thought of what is before me. Thoroughly enjoyable, thank you.

Waveney Mon 31-Oct-16 21:22:47

I am thoroughly enjoying this book - it is perfect bedtime reading - but haven't quite made it to the end by the end of October. I think it is quite poignant for me as it reminds me of my beloved dad's attitude to old age ( and Parkinson's ). It's interesting that I have come across several novels recently taking the viewpoint of the more mature. I recently read The Vintage Springtime Club, and Maeve Haran has written several 'chick lit' novels featuring women in their sixties. I will post again when I reach the end of this month's book.

Anya Mon 31-Oct-16 21:43:04

Just downloaded a sample of this book onto my Kindle so I can see if it's worth the almost £10 that Amazon want to charge me for it.

How much????

carolboz Tue 01-Nov-16 20:42:14

Finally got round to reading this book, halfway through now, it is a true job stopper. Having read two other books about people in retirement homes I wondered how different this one could be. It is very different, so far a very personal tale about Hendrik, his views on life and his own journey through the life in a retirement home. It is in the same format as Adrian Mole in that it is told through his journal. Going off now to read some more. I will give a full account of my thoughts on the finished book when I get there, but thought I would let folks know I am reading it with enjoyment and so far would recommend it to fellow Grans netters.

GeminiJen Tue 01-Nov-16 21:10:35

DavidH22...I'm with you in terms of your reaction to this book. Indeed, I've been quite surprised to read how many people have been prompted to laugh out loud. Maybe it is an age thing...I'm in my 70s, and looking to what may yet lie in store. I didn't find a great deal here to look forward to.

As others have pointed out, there have been quite a number of popular fiction books with elderly protagonists of late, often embarking on a journey. Last one I read, and enjoyed, was 'The Hundred Year old Man who climbed out of the window and disappeared'.....Signs of a growth industry perhaps in chick lit for the elderly?! It will be interesting to see if Hendrik Groen does produce the novel hinted at towards the end.

Lest what I've said so far sounds terribly negative, I would say that Hendrik comes over as a sympathetic protagonist. You can't help but warm to him and his friends in the 'Old but not dead' club. They care about each other, they help each other, they raise each other's spirits. You get a real sense too of the care home and its many irritations...the money-saving tactics, the rules, the food, the routines, the hotbed of 'gossip, grousing and gibberish', the effects of ageing and the ever present spectre of death.

Overall then?...I found this poignant and insightful, but not a bundle of laughs.

Grannyknot Tue 01-Nov-16 21:59:08

Thank you for my copy, only just started it today (it arrived during my absence abroad). I'm enjoying it so far and look forward to reading the whole book. I love Dutch people so it's a treat.

Hastening away now in case I read spoilers!

Anya Tue 01-Nov-16 22:21:49

Oh dear! I do know I have an odd sense of humour, and was lambasted on another thread for seeing humour in a post where no one else could, but I've been giggling all the way through this book. OK there are a couple of sad, even tragic parts, but many of his little asides are so true to life, I have to laugh.

Anyone else see some echoes of GN on it too?

GeminiJen Wed 02-Nov-16 11:23:46

Anya....You wouldn't be referring to the 3 Gs, by any chance? grin

gillyknits Wed 02-Nov-16 15:18:12

I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book because of the subject matter, however after a few pages I became involved in Hendrik's life in the care home.A very thought provoking book!
I hope that I too would want to kick against the rigid and often silly rules imposed by the authorities. The formation of the 'Old But Not Dead 'club by the founder members, gives the old people a respite from the institutional home where they spend their days. The final words sum up the attitude of the members of the club ' As long as there are plans, there's life'
It has a poignant dark humour. Evert is often using humour to hide his fear of illness and Hendrik's description of his fellow 'inmates' are a joy to read. I found the latter part of the book very sad as the original club members become depleted by dementia and a stroke.
Hendrick had found happiness in companionship and felt that it was too late.
It discusses dementia and euthanasia in great depth.( I think the laws in the Netherlands are different from ours.) Apart from the names, I would have thought that the book was set in England. The translator has done such a good job and I suppose the problems of old age are the same everywhere. Thank you for introducing me to a book that I would never have chosen from the shelf.

Maggiemaybe Thu 03-Nov-16 09:45:52

I've just come on to add my twopennorth and seen gillyknit's comments above re the setting and translation. My view is different - I'm finding the translation just a bit clunky in parts, with some rather stilted expressions. Also, as I'm reading I'm always aware that the book is not set in the UK (not that this is a bad thing, just that I feel slightly removed from it, if you know what I mean).

I'm not enjoying the book quite as much as I thought I would, but as I was expecting Adrian Mole with a Zimmer frame and more belly laughs that's not surprising. Hendrick's very likeable and I'm enjoying his wry comments, but of course some of the subject matter is very bleak and a bit close to home. As Anya says, there are echoes of Gransnet!

Saying that, I'm not far into the book yet as it came out so late, so I'll post again when I've finished it if comments are still open then.

inishowen Thu 03-Nov-16 12:06:14

Oh dear, for the first time ever, I only read half the book. I got so bored reading about the care home I couldn't finish it. By the very nature of it, life in a care home is tedious, and to me the book was the same. Sorry, but you can't like every book you read, and this one wasn't for me.