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Green Dot by Madeleine Gray: Promising debut novel about the adrift twentysomething life

Despite the arch and exuberant writing style, there is a bleak undercurrent to the book

Green Dot
Green Dot
Author: Madeleine Gray
ISBN-13: 978-1399612760
Publisher: W&N
Guideline Price: £18.99

Australian author Madeleine Gray’s debut novel Green Dot is already one of the most-talked-about books of the year. It arrives laden with praise and lands squarely in the coming-of-age genre of fiction made popular by Sally Rooney.

The book opens at a gallop with Hera’s distinctive voice – smart, funny, self-deprecating, verbose and precocious. Hera is an unemployed 24-year-old bisexual woman living at home with her gay dad and experiencing a complete disconnect between the life she is living and the one she thought she would have by now. With several arts degrees to her name, but no qualifications that might actually help her find a job, she takes on a role as an online comment moderator at a newspaper. Her colleagues are weird or annoying, and leave her feeling desperate and alone.

Office life hasn’t been this toe-curlingly depicted since Ricky Gervais’s The Office. When Hera starts instant messaging an older journalist, Arthur, they develop a friendship that turns into a flirtation that turns into an affair. From this point on, the book focuses its attention on the central question of many an illicit affair – not “how will it end?” but “how badly will it end”. We are helpless to watch and wonder when Hera will come to her senses as she leans into more bad decisions that compound her unhappiness.

Gray handles Hera’s coming-of-age story skilfully, subtly transforming her from a silly and childish, irresponsible and slightly unkind character to someone the reader understands and cares about deeply, someone with real feelings and a real heart that is being broken.


Despite Gray’s arch and exuberant writing style, there is a bleak undercurrent to the book that leaves traces of despair and evokes important questions about modern life and the disillusionment of a generation of twentysomethings. (It calls to mind Meg Mason’s Sorrow and Bliss and Raven Leilani’s Luster.)

The best part of the book – Hera’s acidic voice – is at times its biggest weakness, as her monologues can feel too lengthy. Hera’s family back story could also be more fleshed out but there is still so much to enjoy in this debut novel, not least a smart and modern sense of humour, Gray’s stylish and intelligent writing and some beautiful depictions of true love in the form of Hera’s relationships with her loving father.

Edel Coffey

Edel Coffey

Edel Coffey, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a journalist and broadcaster. Her first novel, Breaking Point, is published by Sphere