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What I Did: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, July 17, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (July 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062121693
  • ASIN: B00DPNY05A
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,841,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Much in the vein of Atonement, a well-intentioned innocent threatens to destroy the people he loves most . . . affecting.” (Publishers Weekly )

“Like Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap, [WHAT I DID] documents one family’s attempt to copewith the aftermath of a public outburst and the failure of their own innocent attempts to put things right . . . an affecting, thought-provoking tale of parent-child relations.” (Booklist )

“Warm, hilarious, eye-wateringly moving, with the cleverest use of point of view since Jane Austen . . . WHAT I DID is the novel that should have won the Booker prize.” (Daily Mail (London), "Christmas Pick" in the literary fiction category )

“A child’s view of the actions and attitudes of adults has seldom been so compellingly or tenaciously illustrated as by Wakling in this perfect little book.” (Irish Times )

“Gripping, hilarious, tender and a whole lot more, this is, without doubt, one of the books of the year.” (Daily Mail (London) )

“This is family life today at its most believable: warm and messy, bored and raging, and above all, self-conscious. WHAT I DID is every parent’s nightmare, but will make you burst out laughing too. I loved it.” (Emma Donoghue )

“A powerful, poignant and funny novel, perched on the precarious line between protecting children and destroying families.” (Melbourne Age )

“Amusing and unsettling . . . What I Did lets us into the mind of a child who is comically literal and utterly at sea in the world of adults.” (The Guardian )

“Horribly plausible . . . [What I Did] brilliantly captures parent-child relations in the raw.” (The Independent )

“Wakling creates believable conflict from the everyday facts of a child going just too far and a parent losing it . . . The novel is a strong depiction of a family in crisis.” (Sunday Age (Melbourne) )

“A powerful parable of 21st century society . . . a fine, challenging novel.” (Mail on Sunday )

“I loved it! Staggeringly good. Terrifyingly good.” (Lisa Jewell, bestselling author of Ralph's Party )

“Hugely impressive, gripping, funny and thought provoking.” (Emily Barr, bestselling author of Backpack )

“Excellent . . . Dark but uplifting.” (Alex Preston, author of This Bleeding City )

From the Back Cover

"This is a story about a terrible thing which happens to me. I have to warn you that nobody is bad or good here, or rather everyone is a bit bad and a bit good and the bad and the good moluscules get mixed up against each other and produce terrible chemical reactions. Did you know cheetahs cannot retract their claws?"

Six-year-old Billy loves animals, David Attenborough documentaries, and sneakers that flash when he runs. He does not love sitting still, the blood-soaked sky in Watership Down, or his father's cell phone.

When Billy runs into a busy street, ignoring his father's commands, he sets in motion a series of unexpected, family-altering events. What I Did is a heart-wrenching reminder of how best intentions can lead to disastrous consequences, and how one rash decision can take on a life of its own.


More About the Author

Christopher Wakling grew up in California and England. He won a scholarship at Oxford University, and has since worked as a travel writer, farm hand and litigator. In 2001 he moved to Australia, learned to surf and fly a plane, and wrote his first novel, The Immortal Part. He now lives in Bristol, England with his wife and children; What I Did is his sixth book.

Customer Reviews

It's not a BAD book, it's just not enjoyable to read.
Hippie2MARS
It was rather brave of Christopher Wakling to give this perspective a try but I didn't think the child sounded real; he sounded like an adult pretending to be a child.
Miss Barbara
I know some readers found this very clever, but I thought it was very annoying.
Anne Masterson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Miss Barbara TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 27, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book just didn't grab me. I found that reading it became a chore rather quickly. I usually devour books in one or two sittings but could only do 10 pages without needing a respite. And why no chapters? This book runs on from page one to the end with no breaks. I found that disconcerting - don't know why.

The POV from a child isn't necessarily a bad idea but a six year old can be tiring in real life; why torture someone reading for pleasure with the incessant nattering of a chatterbox kid? I guess I sound like the worst Meemaw in the world but I just wanted to pack Billy on the train and send him home or anywhere - just away from me.

It was rather brave of Christopher Wakling to give this perspective a try but I didn't think the child sounded real; he sounded like an adult pretending to be a child. Wakling's a good writer and I don't plan to give up on him. He just didn't score with me this time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Susan K. Schoonover VINE VOICE on October 23, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
WHAT I DID tells the story of a family who through a series of misunderstandings and bad choices come under investigation by England's version of children's social services. The story is told through the eyes of Billy a six year old with a big vocabulary and an obsession with wildlife and particularly Richard Attenborough documentaries. I don't think Billy is portrayed like a typical child of his age and found it interesting that several other reviewers wondered if he is supposed to have high functioning autism or Asperger Syndrome because of how literally he takes things, his overwhelming special interest in animals, an almost compulsion to tell the truth as he sees it and some other characteristics. Anyway Billy runs away from his father and in to the street and his angry but relieved father hits him. A bystander sees this and calls the authorities who investigate. Billy's father imprudently does his best to anger the investigators to the distress of his wife and mother-in-law. Billy gives statements that are unfortunately misconstrued in his interviews and some other circumstances make the family seem suspicious. Things go from bad to worse for this family though the story does end with some hope. I was not particularly fond of Emma Donoghue's highly praised ROOM and WHAT I DID bears some resemblance to that book and in both novels I found reading an adult's idea of how a child might see the world quickly became tiresome.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JudithAnn on September 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is about adults not understanding, and therefore misinterpreting, a small boy's mind. More generally, it's about communication, also between adults. The story is frustrating but oh-so believable. I was commenting all the way "Come on, listen more carefully to that boy! He isn't saying that!", or "Why did he (not) do that? That's so stupid!", or "Come on, people. Back off. You're making a big thing out of a little one." So, that was fun! I enjoy it when I have an opinion about the story that's unfolding and that was certainly the case here.

The pivotal event (involving a brick wall) was described by six-year old Billy in a very odd way - only this way could the story evolve as it did, but to me, it wasn't very believable that he would talk about it in this way (and that adults would understand him wrongly about it). Otherwise, the story was very believable.

Billy made a great narrator. He told most of the story in his own words, but the adult conversations were left as they were, so the reader doesn't get a filtered dialogue from the adults (through Billy), but one as it really happened.

Billy is rather precocious for his age, which is recognised in the book, by his parents, by the teacher. However, some of the words he uses I wasn't convinced about (like when something new happens, he says "I wanted to tell Dad about this development", the latter word being a bit big for a six year old). On the other hand, certain big words he clearly knows from the David Attenborough nature programmes that he likes to watch all the time. Other words, that obviously are never used in such programmes, he doesn't know.

Anyone who likes to read about miscommunication or not communicating at all and what the consequences can be should read this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joanna L. Mcneal on July 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
Christopher Wakling's What I Did is a charming novel with a fairly large twist: the entire novel is told from the point of view of a six-year-old. Complete with misunderstood words and somewhat skewed language skills, it is the story of a family told by their young son, Billy.

Billy is primarily taken care of by his father Jim, who works from home, while his mother works long hours. One day Billy and his father go on a trip to a local park, a trip that changes the course of both their lives. During normal back-and-forth moments between father and son, Billy becomes upset and runs away from his father. Jumping out into a busy street, he is finally caught by his father.

Everything that happens next is one long bit of confusion. Witnesses state one thing; Billy, in his six-year-old, imaginative way of talking, tells the story in a wildly different manner; and Billy's father Jim has his own version, of course.

Although the six-year-old point of view can be difficult to read with ease (there are definitely no speed-readers making their way through this novel in record time), Wakling also makes it fun and entertaining -- and most likely very true-to-life. Our narrator misunderstands many words, making for some confusion as you read, followed by small bursts of "Oh!" as it's figured out. Some excellent Billy-isms:

"We do some pretend making for a bit and as we do it I give Lizzie a running comment tree." (p. 77)

"Goldfish have a very short attention spam, too." (p. 82)

"Then I tell her about silverback gorillas who also have posable thumbs and weigh up to four hundred pounds and are therefore earth's greatest prime-apes." (p. 159)

While hilarious at times, What I Did is also an exercise in frustration for a reader.
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