Kim Lock wrote one of my favourite books of 2021, The Other Side Of Beautiful. I still find myself thinking about that book from time to time, so imagine my delight when I opened a package from Harper Collins to find a copy of her latest – The Fancies.
It’s “a small town mystery where a homecoming lifts the veil on a time when a town failed to stand up to its girls”, set in a (fictional) cray fishing village at the “butt end” of South Australia. It’s a town where everyone knows everyone, and no one forgets a thing (except for Old Dick Fancy).
Abigail Fancy swore she’d never return to her hometown. She left as a teenager, in a fog of scandal and allegations, with both middle fingers held up out the window of her boyfriend’s car. But here she is, stumbling into her family home, setting tongues wagging and rumours swirling around town once again.
The Fancies isn’t quite as sweet and charming as The Other Side Of Beautiful. It’s closer to Dyschronia, or one of Evie Wyld’s novels, or even Melissa Lucashenko’s. It’s a story that speaks to our collective history of burying uncomfortable truths about what the world does to women.
The comic relief (occasionally) comes from Old Dick Fancy, Abigail’s grandfather. He’s living with dementia, determined to die as quickly as he can. His chapters are styled so that it isn’t always clear what he’s thinking versus what he’s actually saying out loud. I was repeatedly amazed by how cleverly Lock wrote his character, how the most confused character offered the most clarity to the reader (and a few much-needed laughs).
The denouement of The Fancies comes on very quickly. After a few hundred pages of allusion and inkling, all of the secrets are revealed in one great rush. It wasn’t what I was expecting or hoping for, but it was a relief to have some answers.
Most importantly, I think, The Fancies is going to be a great conversation starter about the realities of incarceration in this country, and the self-perpetuating cycles of engaging with the criminal justice system. This is clearly an issue that Lock feels passionately about, and she’s poured that passion into another amazing novel.
Buy The Fancies on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)