Green Dot by Madeleine Gray

This is the hyped title du jour, and I couldn’t resist, even having been singed around the edges with another relationship novel in Monica Heisey’s really good, actually last month.

Cover from Blur: The Best of – Julian Opie (artist)

For a start, the cover stands out with the green, and its design is great, with two figures in the style of Julian Opie (whose work you will recognise from his Blur pics, right), sitting across a desk from each other, one on the front, one on the back. Gray is Australian, so I really hoped for some cracking humour, and less of the ‘poor me’ of Heisey. The title refers, of course, to the ‘green dot’ showing someone is online.

I’m pleased to report that this one was funnier than Heisey’s in the main story, which the protagonist, Hera tells looking back at an affair that was always going nowhere.

Hera is in her mid-twenties, currently single, and living with her Dad in Sydney. Her last lesbian relationship had broken up. She’s broke and finally needs to get a proper job. She gets work as a content moderator at a magazine (shades of Hanna Bervoet’s We had to Remove this Post here, but with less of the darkness) in a team of three with the awful Alison who has been there forever, and kindred colleague Mei Ling. Across the office sit the journalists, including Arthur, a Brit, some ten or so years older, whom she rather takes to when she engineers bumping into him in the lift.

Fuck it, I decide. I make eye contact and cannonball into conversation. ‘Hi, I’m Hera. I’m the new community moderator. I think my desk is near yours. Who do you hate most in the office?’
He looks at me for a second like,
Did she actually just ask me that? And then he bursts out laughing like he’s been snapped out of a fugue state. […]
‘Well, Hera, new community moderator, I don’t know that I’m at liberty to divulge that information.’ […]
As I exit the lift, I look him directly in the eyes, which are very close to my eyes at the moment, and mouth, ‘Well who?’

Later he messages her an answer, and mouths it at her on his way out that evening!

It’s on, then. It is that simple.
I have found the source of sustenance I will need to survive the office. For two minutes today I have been reminded that I am a person.
I am going to hold on to it, of course I am.

Soon they start messaging each other jokes and pithy comments, but it gets ramped up a notch when the journalists invite her to join them for a drink – and she and Arthur are the last ones to leave. Soon, it becomes a full-blown relationship, and the in-office messaging becomes more earthy and all about arranging assignations and all-consuming for Hera, who doesn’t know he has a wife at the start. Eventually Hera gives him an ultimatum. Arthur will have to make a choice between her and his wife – and Arthur, weak as he inevitably is, although he says he wants to, keeps putting it off … I won’t tell you how it ends, but you can guess some of it, I’m sure.

At 373 pages, this novel is a little long. It gets drawn out towards the end of the affair, which does amplify the seemingly never-ending drama of will-he-won’t-he leave his wife. Hera, as with Heisey’s Maggie, has a good bunch of friends who will stand by her and set her straight. Gray’s protagonist is more self-deprecating than Heisey’s, more sassy too. The generational problems posed by the age gap between Hera and Arthur are interesting too. Although she loves good sex, Hera is also up for snuggling into his ‘life-couch’, making him also a daddy figure. The saddest scene of the book occurs about two thirds of the way through between Hera and her father though, and it did moisten my eyes momentarily, so it’s not all sass and sarcastic wit. Through Hera’s job, Gray is also able to use that to comment on social media’s all pervasive nature, plus the boring nature of much office work.

Green Dot was far better than the Heisey for me, and Hera had more depth than Maggie. However, if you want to read a contemporary affair novel involving a more mature couple that is really funny, hugely waspish in its humour and bite and, being French, more philosophical than either, read As the Eagle Flies by Nolwenn le Blevennec from Peirene Press, which I really enjoyed.

Source: Own copy. W&N Hardback, 375 pages.

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8 thoughts on “Green Dot by Madeleine Gray

  1. imogenglad says:

    Interesting review! I though there might be too much of a generation gap for me to enjoy this novel but your discussion makes it sounds as though I could enjoy it!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I’m in my early 60s! The Heisey was too young for me, but with Arthur being older than Hera that did help and showed up the differences between them.

  2. A Life in Books says:

    I enjoyed the Heisey for its snarky narrative but it was too long and self-absorbed. I’d been avoiding this one thinking it would probably be similarly over-hyped but might try it now.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I got a half-price offer, so it was easier to take a chance on. It was more fun than the Heisey one, for sure in the Australian setting and culture. I’ll keep plugging the Nolwenn le Blevennec novel from Peirene, As the Eagle Flies, I read back in Jan as a superior and really chucklesome French affair novel though, better than both of these!

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