I'm making a special effort this year to actually read the stalwarts of my TBR list - those books which have remained listed for years, yet always seem to be overlooked at buying time in favour of shiny new titles. Speak Its Name is one such novel. I adored the previous Kathleen Jowitt book I read - A Spoke In The Wheel - back in 2018, yet it has taken nearly four years for me to pick up another of her works. Sometimes I really don't understand myself ... which, coincidentally, is one of the themes of Speak Its Name.
In her second year at university, Lydia begins to come to terms with the contradictions within herself. Although strictly raised as an Evangelical Christian, she is obviously aware that other interpretations of Christianity exist, yet her struggle is to find the place where she can be comfortable with herself and her beliefs without lots her faith. The late-1990s setting of Speak Its Name also expands to encompass the widespread disagreements across English universities at the time about the increasingly wide gap between faith teaching and secular teaching about equal opportunities. I loved how Jowitt managed to explore her ideas simultaneously through both Lydia's intensely personal predicament and through the arguments being had across the Stanchester University Campus. She gives readers access to a panoply of mostly Christian perspectives with diverse opinions and backgrounds prompting them.
Alongside the theological narrative is a wickedly accurate portrayal of student life which reminded me, I think, of Brand New Friend by Kate Vane. Lydia's slightly world-weary attitude to the administration and committees side of her life rang very true and the relationships within the student house on Alma Road felt so authentic. Each of the disparate characters have their own life decisions to make and the mixing pot makes for a wonderful novel. Speak Its Name, despite being ideologically a deep and thoughtful novel, is also an entertaining read with deft humour and a truly lovely romance. I'm kicking myself for having left this book unread for so long.
(reviewed 52 days after purchase)