Alex Peake-Tomkinson

Heartbreak in the workplace: Green Dot, by Madeleine Gray, reviewed

Hera is 24, bisexual and usually dates women. But her infatuation with Arthur, an older, married journalist in her office, grows all-consuming

Madeleine Gray. [Credit: Zan Wimberley]

Hera, the heroine of Madeleine Gray’s first novel, is 24, which, as she says, ‘seems young to most people but not to people in their mid-twenties’. She lives in Sydney with her father and their dog and works as an online community moderator, but the contents of her work bag reveal her to be Bridget Jones’s edgier little sister: ‘My wallet, three pairs of underpants, headphones, nine tampons, a travel vibrator, two novels, a notebook, two beer caps, a bottle of sake and a fountain pen.’ She will also inevitably be compared to Hannah from Lena Dunham’s Girls and to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag.

Gray’s writing style is droll but if Hera’s internal monologue sounds gauche and affected, it is useful to remember what the average 24-year-old sounds like. When she tells her closest friends her feelings, she reflects to herself: ‘I’ll speak it now and work out if it’s honest later.’ Her cynical schtick is not always palatable, particularly when she describes a colleague as having ‘the embodied exhaustion of a Holocaust museum tour guide’.

Hera is bisexual and usually dates women. At one point with a man, she tells herself: ‘I am here on an anthropological mission: I am here to have sex with a man.’ She nonetheless begins an affair with Arthur, a more senior and married journalist who works in the same office, and she quickly becomes infatuated. The green dot of the novel’s title may be as powerful to her as the green light at the end of Daisy Buchanan’s dock was for Gatsby, but it in fact refers to the green dot that appears when Arthur is online on their work’s internal messaging system. Gray is very good on Hera’s powerlessness while waiting for Arthur to message her and the ‘sick-making cycle of checking my phone and throwing it on to the couch facedown, only to retrieve it and check again moments later’.

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