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What I Did [Paperback]

Christopher Wakling
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 10.28 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

4 Aug 2011

A boy runs across a busy road.

His father smacks him.

A passer-by intervenes ...

When Billy Wright runs across a busy road, his world is altered irreversibly, even though he doesn't realise it at the time.

Because a passer-by has stopped to watch the scene. She has seen Billy's father catch up with him and smack him. Within an hour she has informed social services, plunging the family into a living nightmare which begins with a social worker's visit and escalates through a series of misunderstandings until the family is threatened to its core.

What I Did is a powerful novel about the unseen consequences of a split second decision, about a childhood interrupted and the lengths we go to to protect the ones we love. It is frequently heartbreaking, blackly funny, and utterly compelling.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (4 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848546165
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848546165
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 23.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 548,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Gripping, hilarious and tender, this is, without doubt, one of the books of the year (Daily Mail)

The novel brilliantly captures parent-child relations in the raw and the emotions that even the most experienced social worker can't tame (Independent)

An amusing and unsettling story (Saturday Guardian)

This is family life at its most believable: warm and messy, bored and raging. WHAT I DID is every parent's nightmare, but will make you burst out laughing too. I loved it. (Emma Donoghue, author of ROOM)

I loved it! Staggeringly good. Terrifyingly good (Lisa Jewell)

Hugely impressive, gripping, funny and thought provoking (Emily Barr)

Excellent . . . Dark but uplifting (Alex Preston)

[A] fine, challenging novel (Mail on Sunday)

Book Description

The story of a father accused of child abuse, seen through the eyes of his six-year-old son.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling read 29 July 2011
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Yet another five star review from me and I begin to wonder if I am becoming less critical in my "old" age! However this book absolutely deserves it in my view. The subject matter is serious but is handled in a very original way that makes it very readable, without detracting from the importance of the issues. Many ordinary, "good" parents will shiver at the possibility that this could happen to them - and we know that it sometimes does. Balance that against the far more frequent stories in the news of child abuse and we have the classic dilemma that social workers face every day of their working lives: damned if they do and damned if they don't. Many innocent parents will empathise with the reaction of Billy's father to the accusations against him and will recoil from the invasion of privacy and family life that results from a momentary action. So, that's the theme, but the beauty of this book is in the narration by six year old Billy, who is a bright child with an almost obsessive interest in natural history - which contributes in part to the misinterpretation of his father's actions. You will laugh out loud at some of Billy's "mis-sayings" - it took me most of the book to unravel his use of the word vertically - turned out to mean virtually. (We all have stories like this from our children. My son wanted to play a gitower with a stick (violin)and sit in a death (deck) chair. And I narrowly avoided social services when I gave him chicken maggots for tea.) It is Billy's efforts to do the right thing and to do what he thinks his parents want him to that leads them further and further into the nightmare and only by using Billy as the narrator could the author explain this through Billy's eyes. If you liked Room by Emma Donoghue you will like this device; if you didn't, then this might irritate you. For me it was a compelling read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As soon as I started this book I was hooked, surprising as I don't usually like books written through the eyes of a child. This story uses this device very well, Billy is a bright six year old with a little boy's fascination with natural history. On the day the story starts, one half-term, he wakes his father too early, takes too long putting his shoes on, spills coffee on his father plus a multitude of other minor sins then, when he realises how cross his father is runs away towards the road and his father smacks him. A passer-by intervenes and this culminates in a visit from a social worker.

The story from this point on escalates, Billy tells the truth as he sees it, his Dad is annoyed at the interference and Billy's mother doesn't know what to think. The love between Billy and his Dad shines off the page, but life in this household is pressured before this incident and the investigation doesn't improve matters.

Billy's story is told in a mixture of his own words, cow sill for council, and natural history facts. Billy's conversations both with other people and to himself frequently go off at a tangent and having had a son this reminded me of some of those seemingly endless conversations. Despite being written from a child's perspective the story keeps up a good pace and I rattled through it.

This book reminds us all that sometimes doing or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can have a huge impact on so many lives.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Believable, Warm and a bit Wonderful 11 Sep 2011
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The blurb on the back of What I Did by Christopher Wakling intrigued me so much that I just had to pick this one from the Amazon Vine programme. I've had my nose firmly stuck between the pages for the past couple of days - this really is a wonderfully clever book.
The central storyline of What I Did could happen to any family. Imagine, you are out in the park with your six year old son. Both of you are in a bad mood - it's early, you have work worries, you'd rather be in bed. Suddenly your son runs off, over the park, through the trees and makes his way towards a busy road. You chase him, shouting for him to stop. You see him run out between parked cars, you see the traffic, your heart thuds. He's lucky, he stops, he's unhurt. You grab him - you smack him. You are so relieved that he is OK, but so damn angry too.
And so, that is the beginning of the story. Narrated by six year old Billy, and seen purely through his eyes, with his kind of mixed up feelings about his angry Dad and his pure innocence and honestly, that only cause the family more and more heartache.
Billy is a wonderfully drawn character, bright as a button, intelligent, obsessed with David Attenborough and wild animals and the attention span of an ant. At first his voice is a little difficult to relate to, he often muddles his words and at times he goes totally off-track, into random observations and information relaying. This only adds to his character, and makes him more lifelike. Six year old boys are like that, this is real life.
Somebody saw Jim (Billy's Dad) smack him, she confronted him and Jim told her where to get off - that was his second mistake, after the mistake of smacking Billy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kids eh? 11 Sep 2011
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a hugely enjoyable piece of writing that wonderfully, painfully and funnily captures the chaos of family life. For once the cover blurb is an accurate and apposite expression of the book, so much so it's worth repeating:
"This is family life at its most believable: warm messy and raging." (E Donoghue, author of Room).
Stylistically it owes a lot to Mark Haddon's"The Curious Incident of the Dog at the Night Time," having a child narrator whose linguistic and perceptual confusions of the world are embedded in the narration. This serves this particular tale very well. Billy is a warm, loveable and loving boy whose confusions and misunderstandings make us smile whilst propelling events in some startling and uncomfortable directions.
His father, Jim, is the other main protagonist and his voice is strong on every page, usually in his counsels and asides to his son that Billy remembers, ending them with the concluding "Son." This is a lovely device that helps bring this father -son relationship to life. And it's this relationship and that of the whole family that is endangered by one particular string of events (hyperactive Billy gets upset with Dad and runs off in the playground, across a road, nearly gets run over, fraught Dad smacks him, a passer-by comments, Dad further loses his temper (verbally) with the passerby, whole exchange gets reported to social services).
Everything that happens in this book is convincing and has its roots in the believable myriad of pressures that a family operates under these days; work, constant pressures from mobiles, national and global events we feel powerless under, the emotional pressures that come with real familial relationships, demands on time, need for space and so on.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me
I skipped so much of this boring fantasy dialogue by the six years old boy. Maybe the plot would have been more meaningful if I had been a mother with a six year old to compare to... Read more
Published 17 months ago by George J. Thomas
2.0 out of 5 stars Cant get into it
I mean apparently this book is written by what? A nine year old? Seriously i have never met a 19 year old with that vocabulary let alone a nine year old.... Read more
Published 17 months ago by shelley
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully disturbing! Loved it!
every parent will be able to identify with this nightmare - the casual happening that grows like Topsy and brings worlds crashing around. Read more
Published 18 months ago by AnneH
3.0 out of 5 stars What I Did
I started this book with great expectations but unfortunately I was disappointed. The idea of how someones life can be turned upside down so quickly from what was perceived by the... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Pam
5.0 out of 5 stars One Thing Leads To Another - In A Bad Way
From the synopsis and most other reviewers I think you get an idea of what this book is about so I won't repeat too much of that. Read more
Published 23 months ago by A. Rose
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely book
Very moving and enjoyable read, skilfully written. Amusingly told from the point of view of a child, with a page turning ending.
Published on 26 May 2012 by M Twain
4.0 out of 5 stars A well-crafted, original novel
It took me a while to get used to the narrator's voice in this novel written from a child's point of view, but once I had got to know that voice, it became the making of the book. Read more
Published on 28 April 2012 by A. Hunt
3.0 out of 5 stars A slightly irritating child narrator, but a good idea for a story.
Billy Wright is six years old and spends a lot of time with his dad, whilst his mum is out at work. One day, whilst out for a walk, Billy nearly runs into the road and his dad... Read more
Published on 24 Mar 2012 by Nicola
5.0 out of 5 stars What I Did
This was a great read I couldn't put it down.funny in parts and gripping in others, just shows how things can spiral out of control.
Published on 25 Feb 2012 by Dotty
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, darkly funny but also upsetting
A great book that will resonate I am sure with any parent who has disciplined a child, or maybe seen a child disciplined, and then thought what does this look like to an... Read more
Published on 16 Feb 2012 by Mr. Philip Harkins
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