On The Bright Side - The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen #BookReview #BlogTour

‘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.

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for On The Bright Side today, my grateful thanks to Sam Deacon for inviting me to take part and for my copy of the book.
This is going to be a slightly more personal review today, before I write about Hendrik Groen, it just feels right somehow to first share a few memories of another older man. When people talk of heroes, I immediately think of my Grandad. He lived what would be thought of as a small life, he only left his home town when he served in the army during the Second World War, then returned home where he lived for the rest of his long life. He died in 2012, aged 98 years old and right to the end he retained his sense of humour and zest for life, in spite of his personal tragedies  - my grandmother died of breast cancer when she was only 58, his daughter (my Mum) died of the same disease just eight years later when she was 42, and my brother died by suicide in 2012. When somebody asked if he ever questioned "why me?" he replied, "No, if I asked that then I'd be implying why not somebody else instead and I'd never wish that." He told the best worst jokes ever, quoted Spice Girls lyrics to me when he was in his eighties, was still playing hide and seek in his nineties, had strong opinions about social justice and was loved by everybody who knew him - when we were growing up the other children in our road called him Grandad too.
So I was immediately drawn to reading On The Bright Side; to spend some time in the company of another older gentleman who refuses to just fade away was an offer too good to resist. I've not yet had the pleasure of reading his first book but I never felt that affected my enjoyment of this one, it just made me more determined to seek out the previous title.
The diary form of On The Bright Side means it's the ideal book to dip in and out of without losing track of events. Covering a year of Hendrik's life, it follows the highs - the Old-But-Not-Dead Club 's (OBND) excursions and international meal nights - and their lows as they fear the possibility that their home may be due for closure and have to face the inevitable passing of friends and loved ones. In a world where older people are often either patronised or ignored it was so refreshing to read a book where they not only take centre stage but are also portrayed as the complex, intelligent and humorous people they were recognised as before they reached their senior years. As much as it's a light-hearted read of octogenarian anarchy, On The Bright Side is also an insightful look at 21st Century life and although set in the Netherlands, the themes will be familiar to many of us; the issues surrounding ongoing care for the elderly in an ever ageing population; austerity; global terrorism, immigration; political scandals; the increasing reliance on technology and conspicuous consumerism. Hendrik shares his opinions throughout through his diary entries and his observations will have many people nodding or raising a wry smile.
On The Bright Side is a truly charming book, when Hendrik writes about the exploits of the OBND Club - about their joyful plotting against officious authority and the mischief they're capable of causing - the pages are infused with an infectious sense of fun. However, there's also a poignant honesty to his words as he examines his feelings about loss, both past and imminent. He's reached an age where he accepts the inevitability of death, both his own mortality and the loss of his friends but nevertheless the passing of loved ones still matters and the quiet, dignified grieving here is incredibly moving, I won't be the only reader moved to tears.
Not everybody is as lucky as I was to have a Grandad who accidentally made prank phone calls, or would tie carrier bags to his teenage granddaughter's shoes to protect them in the rain (guess who?!) but everybody can have Hendrik Groen in their life, I can only recommend that you welcome him into your home.

On The Bright Side by Hendrik Groen will be published on 11th January 2018 in the UK by Michael Joseph and can be pre-ordered here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

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 Velmans 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 & Noble  Discover Great New Writers selection. Her translation of Lulu Wang’s The Lily Theatre was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.


  1. What a superb review made all the more poignant by the memories of your Grandfather!


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