Wife of ex-Morecambe vicar writes book about family secret

Janet Reeves, author of Silence Unlocked.
Janet Reeves, author of Silence Unlocked.
  • Former librarian has first novel published
  • Story inspired by author’s great aunt
  • Relative died in unsavoury circumstances

A former vicar’s wife is praying Silence will prove golden with her first novel.

Janet M Reeves from Lancaster started writing Silence Unlocked during a creative writing course at White Cross Adult College in 1997.

Janet's book, Silence Unlocked.

Janet's book, Silence Unlocked.

The former librarian developed it further when she took creative writing as an extra course while doing a late degree in Religious Studies at Lancaster University, graduating in 2004 aged 59.

Janet, whose husband John was Vicar of St John the Divine Church, Sandylands, from 1992 until reirement in 2009, said: “The story behind the novel had been in my mind for some time before that.”

In fact the story was inspired by one of Janet’s great aunts who was born in the author’s hometown of Accrington in 1881. Her great aunt died in unsavoury circumstances in 1933 and was never spoken of again.

Janet, 70, was fascinated by the idea that a family would refuse to discuss a beloved relative because of shame and social stigma.

She said: “Although I knew three of her siblings when I was a child I didn’t know of her existence until I was 30. I gradually unearthed the story of her life as a paediatric nurse and midwife who’d left home in her late teens to train as a nurse in London.

“She became involved with the work of the famous Dr Truby King who helped lower the infant mortality rate worldwide.

“I discovered that although an Anglican, the impact of child suffering and death led her to seek answers in more esoteric religious sects involving spiritualism.

“Ellie Elkson represents my great aunt in the novel. The dark and lighter sides of Ellie’s life are shown in her story which eventually lead to the circumstances of her death which can only be revealed by reading the book.

“My main purpose in writing Ellie’s story is to redeem the circumstances of her life from being swamped under the darkness of her death.”

Although this is Janet’s first novel, the mother of Frank, John and Maggie, and grandmother to eight-month-old Alex, has been writing since she was a child. She said: “A love of reading led me to write from the age of seven, adapting stories into plays and puppet shows for our infant class and I revelled in capturing people, events, places and my own thoughts in words both in poetry and prose.

“A shy child, I used writing to express what I couldn’t say out loud.

“I enjoy the experience of characters coming alive as I write and expressing life in their own way.

“I have written magazine articles which have been published on such subjects such as homelessness and the homeless people I’ve known whose life stories have moved me intensely.

“As a firm Christian I have faced struggles and doubts but always found the Faith rings true in the face of life and that the darkness never fully extinguishes the light. I’ve tried to show this in the life of Ellie and her family and the communities with which she is entwined, including their tragic experiences of the Great War.

“Ellie and her siblings rose to the challenge of a time of social upheaval and great advances in science and religious understanding which are all part of my narrative.”

Silence Unlocked is available on Amazon and from Lancaster Tourist Information Centre after Thursday March 19.