It’s a real pleasure today to share my review of Pivotal, the debut novel from Nikki Vallance, published by Hashtag Press on 17th October, available for kindle and in paperback. My thanks to Nikki for her initial approach to make me aware of the book – that immediately convinced me “that’s one for me” – and to Francesca of Literally PR for my advance reading e-copy and the support material.
Dulcie Braybrooke is breaking through as a celebrated ceramicist.
Elizabeth is a lonely City head-hunter.
Annie is a teacher who’s lost her verve.
Liza is a lap dancer with a strong will and a tough life.
When a mysterious bequest throws each of the four into chaos, they seek support in the guise of hypnotherapist, Dr Kath O’Hannon. Through a process of self-discovery, their new-found knowledge weighs heavily, as they unpick four decades of life choices. They could accept the windfall, yet if they do, something entirely unexpected lies around the corner…
Pivotal is a relationship mystery, which portrays the impact of a shared life-changing dilemma on four seemingly unconnected lives.
It follows a cast of strong women in their forties whose lives are disrupted by an extraordinary event, and explores the common experiences and dilemmas of ordinary women, who might be questioning the paths they have chosen. A book with many twists and turns, it is a mystery within a mystery. A story with relatable characters that prompts the reader to consider the decisions we make in life, the paths we take, and what could happen with even just the slightest change of direction.
Read in two sittings, a little short of 400 pages – and maybe that tells you what you most need to know. If women’s lives and the psychology of relationships are what you enjoy, then I’d recommend this book most highly – and, although the pace is steady, I found it a compelling read.
There’s one decision that drives the story – a family legacy with difficult conditions attached, with the potential to change lives, with distinct positives, negatives that cause concern for so many complex reasons, and a decision to be made. But women’s lives are all about choices, those pivotal moments of the book’s title, many every bit as life-changing: while seeking the help of a hypnotherapist to make their final choice, the book explores those moments, the diversity of their impact, and the way the choices made influenced the lives of her four main protagonists.
I must say that I found it quite mesmerising – the depth to the characters is astounding, their emotions real and tangible (and often painful), the paths through life that they’ve followed totally different but equally fascinating. The writing is excellent – the nine years of polishing really show, with each of the women both complex and recognisable. And I very much liked the way the book was structured – the stories of the women alternating with never a moment’s confusion around identity, their voices and personalities always distinctive, their individual dramas very much of their own choice and making.
But this book isn’t all its surface has you believe – and that makes it such a difficult book to review, as it’s so important that its secrets (revealed satisfyingly near the book’s end) hit you with the same punch that I felt. You might have found yourself asking some questions as you read: and when you reach the end, you might well feel the impulse to read it all over again. The whole book was very different, highly original, its construction impeccable, its characters enthralling – and I very much enjoyed it.
About the author
Nikki Vallance is a writer and coach who works with others to unlock their writing talents. She runs coaching programs and one to one sessions to help aspiring writers achieve their goals.
She began writing Pivotal nine years ago, whilst still working in her recruitment career, following a flash of inspiration in a session with her own coach. She has given talks and presentations on her writing process and career.
Pivotal looks at the multiple paths a life may take at the crossroads of each significant decision. Nikki is fascinated by what makes us who we are and how much control we have over our destiny, and interviewed a number of hypnotherapists in researching the book.
Nikki is married with her own blended family of five children. Although a beginner, she’s a big fan of Argentine Tango, which she hopes to dance in Buenos Aires one day.