Out on the 19th

On the Bright Side: The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 85 Years Old - Hendrik Groen

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher.

The second installment of the later life of Hendrik Groen finds everyone’s favorite Dutch hairy-eared Dutch pensioner returning to his diary after taking some time off. He is now 85.

The Old But Not Dead club is still going strong, even after the closing events of the first book. In fact, a new member Leonie, fits right in. She even makes Evert blush. The residents of the home are still a bit of odd bunch. There is still also a slightly merry war between the director of the home and certain residents. There is also a performance artist who moves into the home. The home itself might be facing some type of restructuring. And like the first book, there is the potential of a death in Groen’s ad hoc family.

So, to say that there is some repetition in plot points from the first book would be a fair criticism. But it would also be fair to point out that you don’t really notice until the end of the book, and then you don’t really care.

This is partly due to the emotional connection that one feels to the characters. It is just Hendrik that one feels connected to, it’s Leonie, Ria, Antoine, Graeme, and everyone else – even those in the home who are spiteful biddies. There is an interest in the life that exists in this novel. There is also the relationship between the members of the Old but Not Dead club. It isn’t a romantic relationship (except between the married couple) but true friendship even though they all come from relatively different backgrounds. It is also hard to not swear to be like the members of the club now and in future, even if you are not anywhere near the age of being a member.

The book is also a little more nuanced in character than the first one. More is hinted at about the director, so she becomes something more than just a “no” party pooper. Hendrik himself finds a new friend that reveals new facets about his person as he shows the reader that it is possible to never stop growing as a person.

Another charming facet of the book is the reactions of Hendrick and his home mates to the various new events of 2015, when the diary is being written. There is the reaction to the new king of the Netherlands and the changes made to certain traditions. There are the residents verily reactions to the attacks in Paris, which include a redesigning of the Dutch flag. There are comments about tourists. An analysis of the Tour de France. Football talk. The comments about the various governments spying on each other is quite amusing. Hendrik’s reflections about the refugees arriving in Europe are biting.

The book works because it is so achily human. It charms readers of all ages