What I Did Paperback – 4 Aug 2011
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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)
The story of a father accused of child abuse, seen through the eyes of his six-year-old son.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
"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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Written from a kid's point of view, and very deftly. A great page-turner, head and shoulders above The Slap (in my view), which is on a similar theme.Published 22 months ago by PatsyT
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 morePublished on 29 Mar. 2013 by Ikebana
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 morePublished on 15 Mar. 2013 by shelley
every parent will be able to identify with this nightmare - the casual happening that grows like Topsy and brings worlds crashing around. Read morePublished on 12 Feb. 2013 by AnneH
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 morePublished on 2 Nov. 2012 by Pam
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 morePublished on 24 Sept. 2012 by A. Rose
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
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 morePublished on 28 April 2012 by A. Hunt
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 morePublished on 24 Mar. 2012 by Nicola in South Yorkshire