I’m F*cking Amazing by Anoushka Warden review – a filthily frank, funny and moving debut

<span>‘Tender and soulful’: Anoushka Warden.</span><span>Photograph: Helen Murray</span>
‘Tender and soulful’: Anoushka Warden.Photograph: Helen Murray

Anoushka Warden’s debut novel bowls in from line one like a mixture of Adrian Mole, Victoria Wood, Kathy Lette and a vintage Just Seventeen article that encourages you to look at your undercarriage in a hand mirror: “By my mid-20s I thought I had my fanny and its workings all figured out… I just had this deep trust in it. That it was doing what it was supposed to be doing. Which, primarily, was finding orgasms from all the ways possible to it, ie fingerings, lickings and dry humping.” For the next 40 pages, it proceeds as an “autovagiography”, with the men this “fanny” encounters being ranked on an itemised “Top Humps” scoreboard: “Spanish Alan… always carried lube in a mini bumbag (for his bike).”

It reminded me of India Knight’s fiction, which is heartbreaking and clever in the same way

Warden is a writer for stage and screen – keeping up the sweary, self-deprecating theme, her debut play was the acclaimed My Mum’s a Twat – and she is skilled at maintaining her narrator’s breezy humour and heartbreakingly transparent facade of streetwise carelessness. But it’s exhausting for the reader, who may wonder why this adult tale is being told with kids’ fiction cadences: her boyfriend’s job “was the sort where he had to sound clever to do it and most of the people who worked in his office had all been to the same university, had very posh accents, were in cricket teams together and shortened their surnames to create nicknames like Diko (Dickens), Wilko (Wilkins), Hamo (Hammings) – which they always said like a football chant”.

Underneath, the narrator has a vulnerable, open and romantic heart, and we are right there with her when it gets held – or broken – as the story goes on. She sorts through her boyfriend’s cereal to pick out the bits he doesn’t like: “I repackaged the now-banana-free cereal, making my own label with hearts decorating it, and gave it to [him] as a gift. He was so surprised a few tears came to his eyes.”

The novel settles down once Warden drops the bizarre fanny chat and gets on to the less gimmicky, much more compelling task of finding true love, true friendship and true happiness for the heroine, over whom I ended up feeling rather protective. I’m F*cking Amazing reminded me of India Knight’s fiction, which is frank, heartbreaking, clever and funny in the same way. This is a tender and soulful debut once it gets over its initial humps (both literary and literal).

  • I’m F*cking Amazing by Anoushka Warden is published by Trapeze (£20). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply