Book review: Green Dot, by Madeleine Gray

Madeleine Gray’s debut novel about a lesbian who falls for a man is full of sardonic observations and pop culture references, but at its heart is a heroine going through the emotional wringer, writes Aidan Smith

Before coming to this book I read a magazine article by Madeleine Gray which began: “I was 23 when I learnt that men needed to recharge between orgasms, like iPhone 8s or Teslas.”

This is going to be good, I thought, this is going to be funny. And Green Dot is both, even though it perhaps doesn’t contain a line quite as funny as that one, although right at the start there’s this: “I was intoxicated by the promise of ordinary happiness implied by his cargo shorts, by his chemist-bought sunglasses.”

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This, I think, is deliberate. Gray in the article was writing first-person about what it was like to be a lesbian who falls for a man. Green Dot is about a lesbian who falls for a man, but really falls for him.

Hera tries to remember she’s a cool and cynical 24-year-old Aussie. That she’s the holder of three – count ’em – arts degrees. That she doesn’t really want a job for “normies” like online content moderator for a newspaper but she feels “aimless and sapped” and needs must. And look at the big-shot journalists, “laptop bags swinging with importance”, who when a major story breaks “puff up like inflating jumping castles”. (Ouch). But Arthur, he of the cargo shorts, is a journo and pretty soon she’s fantasising about relieving him of them and then she’s actually doing it.

Hera’s friend Sarah “knows that I am smart but she also knows that for all intents and purposes I am an idiot”. If Hera kept one foot on the ground as more of an observer, Green Dot could make loads of sardonic observations about modern office life and modern relationships, though maybe that would get repetitive and be uninvolving. There are still a good number of both but Gray realises that a better story, gripping and truthful, comes from her heroine metaphorically bungee-ing from Sydney Harbour Bridge, drying herself off, climbing onto the roof of the opera house and doing it again.

Gray is so confident of her approach that she’s happy in this first novel to have Herra use familiar, if not over-familiar, pop-culture references to illustrate her situationship: Bridget Jones, Taylor Swift, Murder on the Dancefloor. Maybe Hera really likes this stuff. Or perhaps she’s decided that being cool and cynical are overrated.

“I’ve done the chaotic twenties thing and, to be frank, I’m pretty over it,” she tells Arthur during budget-hotel post-coital bliss. “I want to go to IKEA together. If you’ll have me, I want to be boring with you.”

Madeleine GrayMadeleine Gray
Madeleine Gray

She says all this despite the fact he’s married and always leaves abruptly. Woops, didn’t I mention that? Arthur didn’t for a while. So how’s it going to end?

Green Dot, by Madeleine Gray, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £18.99

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