On the Bright Side is the sequel to The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen aged 83¼, one of my favourite books of 2016. The Secret Diary was such an unexpected delight. Set in an Amsterdam care home, it’s a wonderful book, full of interesting and sometimes wacky characters and you can read my earlier review HERE . On The Bright Side is another year of Hendrik’s observations and thoughts on life and many of the wonderful characters are back plus there are a few new acquaintances too.
Who is Hendrik Groen? I know it’s an alias and it’s allegedly a work of fiction. Is the author really an old person living in a retirement home? I don’t care. I love both books and there certainly seems to be a bit of truth to the writing. I hope the author is just like Hendrik.
On The Bright Side continues with the escapades of the 8 members of the Old but Not Dead Club. The members of this club might be getting older and in some cases frailer (Hendrik himself is now 85) but they are all still embracing life and embarking on their outings, enjoying new experiences (often involving lots of food and alcohol) and still causing mayhem in the care home. According to the club rules new members can’t just ask to join, they have to be invited by the members after careful consideration – and there can’t be any more than 8 members at any time. So yes, given their advancing years and health issues, there is a possibility that the club membership could change over the course of the year. Why only 8 members? That is the number that will fit comfortably with walking/mobility aids etc into the minibus.
Hendrik’s diary entries are observant, funny but also at times heartbreaking, especially when they lose members. There is also a serious side when there are rumours that the home may be down for demolition and that they might be forced to move. There are still plenty of laugh out loud moments but perhaps fewer than in the first book. He also reveals a bit more of himself and his life before retirement. Hendrik is just such a lovely character.
Hendrik mentions towards the end of the year that he is of a mind to write a novel next. I do hope he does. I look forward to it.
[My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for providing a review copy]
On the Bright Side is due to be published 11 January 2018.