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. Soon the family are visited by Social Workers and so begins a round of examinations, case conferences, meetings and accusations.
Throughout all of this, Billy's voice is loud. He answers the questions in his honest way - but it is the adults who get things wrong, they interpret his answers to mean different things, and Billy, in his innocence does not realise this.
Jim loves Billy, there is no doubt of that. Jim is also stubborn, short tempered and at times very angry. He swears, works too hard and drinks beer. He will not co-operate with the agencies involved, he makes things worse - for himself and for Billy.
This is a clever, entertaining, sad, funny and heart warming story. It is about real life, about mistakes that are made and about the innocence of childhood. I loved every page!