The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen

Narrated by: Derek Jacobi
Length: 11 hrs and 53 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (1,351 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

For fans of A Man Called Ove comes a funny, big-hearted tale about an old man who is young at heart.

Hendrik Groen may be old, but he is far from dead and isn't planning to be buried any time soon. Granted, his daily strolls are getting shorter because his legs are no longer willing, and he has to visit his doctor more than he'd like. Technically speaking he is...elderly. But surely there is more to life at his age than weak tea and potted geraniums?

Hendrik sets out to write an exposé: a year in the life of his care home in Amsterdam, revealing all its ups and downs - not least his new endeavor, the anarchic Old-but-Not-Dead Club. And when Eefje moves in - the woman Hendrik has always longed for - he polishes his shoes (and his teeth), grooms what's left of his hair, and attempts to make something of the life he has left, with hilarious, tender, and devastating consequences.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen will not only delight older listeners with its wit and relevance but charm and inspire those who have years to go before their own expiry dates.

©2017 Hester Velmans (P)2017 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Funny and frank - a story with a great deal of heart." (Graeme Simsion, New York Times best-selling author of The Rosie Project)

"A story about how friendship, selflessness and dignity lie at the heart of the human experience. When I'm an old man, I want to be Hendrik Groen." (John Boyne, internationally best-selling author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas)

"The humble diary of a gentleman who is fighting depression in the twilight of his life is masterfully brought to life by Derek Jacobi's outstanding narration. It's a treat to listen to Jacobi's rich voice and musical intonation... A delightful and richly rewarding listening experience." (AudioFile)

What members say
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Audio level problems

I enjoyed the book well enough but there were serious problems with the audio levels throughout the book. Every 2-3 lines the reader sinks into a barely audible whisper, and you have to turn it up to hear it, and then the very next line is a shout that nearly blows your ears off. The entire book I had to adjust the volume up and down, up and down. Very frustrating. I’ve never had this happen with an audio book before.

129 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great story, uneven volume somewhat detracting.

I read a few reviews commenting that this book is not as good as A Man Called Ove. The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen is nothing like the first book, so comparisons are unfair. The Ove book is related in the third person, as by an outside narrator. The Secret Diary is told in first person, in (obviously) diary form, and is equally excellent. In Ove, we watch the personal evolution of a sad old man, set in his ways and solitary by nature, into a community minded, open hearted and more open minded man—happier, with new purpose. In The Secret Diary, Hendrik is already open minded and kind. His personal progress is of a different sort but is valuable and interesting nonetheless. I liked both books very much. But with The Secret Diary’s Audible version, there is one problem. I love Derek Jacobi as an actor. His narration was one of the draws that prompted me to buy the audio version. Unfortunately, though Jacobi’s interpretation of Hendrik is perfect, charming and fun, his lack of volume control hurt my ears. Jacobi must have at times had his mouth right up against the microphone, and at other times must have leaned far away from it. Or else he was prone to let his voice drift into quiet mode and then suddenly ramp it up by a hundred decibles. I wonder if the sound engineer was paying attention during this recording. The wide variations in volume aren’t so hard to take if the story is being listened to over speakers in a room. But over earbuds (which I use while walking outdoors) the sudden surges in volume were painful. I needed to manually adjust the volume control of my earbuds far too frequently. I gave the story itself five stars, but had to cut a star off the narration and the overall rating, only because of the volume fluctuations. I still highly recommend this book, with the caveat that buyers with sensitive ears should be prepared for the sharp and sudden changes in the narrator’s volume.

114 people found this helpful

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Derek Jacobi is brilliant

This book had me laughing so hard I had to dig out my asthma inhaler. Derek Jacobi is perfect in the role of razor-tongued octogenarian Hendrick Groen, in a tale that will offer some much needed catharsis for anyone who’s either acquainted with a curmudgeonly elder....or are themselves grappling with the challenges of aging. The black humor is spot on, without a trace of cutseyness or treacley sentiment. The writer is from Holland and the story is set in a Dutch assisted living facility, but the indignities of growing old, alas, are universal.

38 people found this helpful

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Not “A Man Called Ove”

Nice book. I enjoyed listening to it as I got an insight of what many elderly go through. Sad and funny at times. A relaxing read, but did not stir me like “A Man Called Ove.”

37 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Life and fun in a geriatric warehouse in Holland

To compare this book to A Man Called Ove is an insult to one of the best novels of the last 10 years (A Man Called Ove). Make no mistake The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen is a pretty good book, but it's not even as good as The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. The humor is sometimes funny, but it more often falls flat. The last 5 hours of this book is much better than the first 7 hours.

A Man Called Ove is no longer available in audio book format at Audible. For those who have not listened to it should get the Kindle ebook version or the paperback. Or ask that Audible make it available again. It is available at Audible UK. With almost 67,000 ratings at Audible (US) the book was very popular.

14 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Oddly Uplifting

A diary written by an old man living in a nursing home hardly sounds enticing but you will miss a very good book if you follow that line of thought. It is at times so funny and yes, sometimes a little sad but delightful all the way through. Hendrik Groen is my hero.

27 people found this helpful

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narration an a+

the narration of this book realky brings it to life. i think the readable version wouldnt have been as enjoyable. excellent!

26 people found this helpful

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One of the most poignant listens ever

As one whose own father is living out his days in a “rest home”, this book struck many chords with me. When I first started listening I wondered how a book with this story line could possible be stretched into as many hours as was listed. Was I ever in for a surprise! I found myself wishing the protagonist had not limited himself to a year’s worth of diary writing! I was drawn in, waiting for the next developments, cheering the club on. The performance was excellent, one of the best I have ever listened to. I would highly recommend this book, particularly in audio form.

28 people found this helpful

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Splendid, whimsical listen

Not only is this book difficult to stop listening to, the protagonist is written as a lovable and humorous 83 and a quarter year old. I’m immediately listening to the next book.

11 people found this helpful

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Hendrik hits the nail on the head!

This audio book made me laugh (the most), sigh (it's poignant), shed a tear (life is sad too) and smile to myself a lot!
It's about being old, lonely, scared, brave and determined. The characters are real!! If you are familiar with old folks, retirement homes and hoping you never need one, this book is a guide for it all. It tells the gritty tough stuff and the lovely stuff and it's put together in a way that makes one realize life is about all of it and it's not all one or the other. Wonderful!!

18 people found this helpful