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.
What I Thought:
Octogenarian Hendrik Groen returns to diary-writing, after a year off and brings us up to date with the doings of the Old-But-Not-Dead club!
On the Bright Side is a fantastic sequel to Hendrik’s original diary (both translated by Hester Velmans) and is equally charming and full of passion for life and a healthy respect for ageing and the inevitable outcome. I hasten to add that there is not a depressing emphasis on death, but given that Hendrik lives in a care facility, it does come up.
As with the first diary, Hendrik and the club focus their energies on outings, experiencing new cuisine and putting a fly in the ointment for the facility’s management – keeping life interesting is the name of the game. On some days, there is momentous International news, but on others there is simply the news that any talk of ailments at one of the lunch tables in strictly forbidden, but whatever Hendrik writes about, it is with charm, affection and a real sense of his and his companions’ efforts to stay connected with a world that perhaps moves a little faster than it used to.
On the Bright Side works as a standalone book, but there is a lot to be gained by reading The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen first, as it charts the origin of the Old-But-Not-Dead club, and gives a little detail on Hendrik’s life before the club came about – there is so much of a difference!
Although written about elderly people in an elderly care setting, there is a lot in this book for people of all ages – I suppose the young assume they know it all, and that their experience is unique but dipping into the diary proves that we all experience the same things, have the same insecurities and it’s our responses to it that differ. As better healthcare and conditions mean we are all living longer, we need to think about how we are going to fill our twilight years – taking a leaf out of the Old-But-Not-Dead club’s book is well worth thinking about!
On the Bright Side is published on 11th January by Michael Joseph.
This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the release of On the Bright Side. Do check out some of the other fab blogs involved:
Please note: I was sent a copy of the book to enable participation in the blog tour. All opinions are, as ever, my own.