*I received an arc via the publisher, in return for an honest review*
On The Bright Side – The New Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen
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 was instantly intrigued by the synopsis of this novel. I myself have worked in a wide-variety of care homes and this includes elderly care and dementia care.
The novel is told in the format of the diary, of care home resident Hendrik Groen. Who I can only describe as growing old, mischievously! He is a warm-hearted character, that instantly draws you into his little stories.
The novel opens in the new year of 2015 and tells the story of the entire year. Hendrik recalls the funeral of his beloved friend Eefjes and this really brought home to me the losses the elderly community must feel.
Hendrik’s other friend Grietje is moved to the dementia ward and the novel does depict her steady decline. But with a narrator like Hendrik although there are heart touching moments, there are equally giggles galore.
“We laugh a lot about our various miseries. It makes living with the restrictions brought on by the body’s decrepitude a great deal easier” – Hendrik Groen.
Some of the residents of the care home, form the ‘old-but-not-dead’ club. The club’s enemy number one, seems to be care home director Mrs Stelwagen. Hendrik describes life in a care home in comedic way. But he also hit upon many home truths. He describes that care homes are supposed to offer comfort, control and companionship. But they can also offer infantilizing, dependence and laziness.
With experience in the sector on a managerial level. I can only, whole-heartedly agree. The rules, regulations and institutionalisation can make living within a care home an unbearable experience. But it is one Hendrik is hell-bent on fighting!
Hendrik tells his stories in a blunt, matter of fact manner. He tells it, as it is, and makes his voice heard!
When I did work within this sector, I met many characters similar to Hendrik and I always encouraged their empowerment and freedom to live as they please. As I often told the residents, we work for you, not to control you. I would have adored a resident like Hendrik and I would have quietly encouraged his (mis)behaviour.
“If you keep treating people like little children, in the long run most of them will start acting like them too” – Hendrik Groen.
Hendrik weaves into the diary various topics of conversation. From life as elderly resident, weighing up the options of euthanasia. To external issues in the local/national media. When the gang get together to debate Sir Cliff Richard, Islamic terror, the British royal family or the refugee crisis.
You see that they are REAL people, with REAL opinions and REAL feelings.
There is bickering amongst the residents aplenty. This is also very realistic and true to life. When Hendrik lists their top ten subjects of conversation.
I was in absolute stitches! They were all so very, very true!
I really enjoyed this book and even though I have worked within the sector. It reaffirmed what I have always known and believed, elderly residents can be hilarious, philosophical, emotionally deep and offer a listening ear, a wealth of life experience, if you just give them a chance and LISTEN!
I look forward to reading more of Hendrik and what the other ‘inmates’ get up to in the future! 4*