Green Dot by Madeleine Gray is a book based on a premise that will possibly divide its readers. Essentially it’s about a woman who falls in love with a married man and continues to have an affair with him, even after finding out. It’s cliched in some ways because she’s sure he’s desperately unhappy in his marriage and just waiting to escape in a way that doesn’t hurt his wife. Too much.
The thing I liked most about this book however is that Gray doesn’t take the easy way out by making our leads cliches. Hera knows she will be harshly judged by others for her behaviour. She knows it’s viewed by everyone – including herself – as ‘wrong’ but she loves Arthur desperately and cannot imagine life without him. And Arthur – doesn’t make a lot of false promises. He doesn’t diminish his relationship with his wife. But he falls in love with Hera nonetheless.Green Dot
by Madeleine Gray
Published by Allen & Unwin
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Literary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Hera Stephen is clawing through her mid-twenties, working as an underpaid comment moderator in an overly air-conditioned newsroom by day and kicking around Sydney with her two best friends by night. Instead of money or stability, she has so far accrued one ex-girlfriend, several hundred hangovers and a dog-eared novel collection.
While everyone around her seems to have slipped effortlessly into adulthood, Hera has spent the years since school caught between feeling that she is purposefully rejecting traditional markers of success to forge a life of her own and wondering if she's actually just being left behind. Then she meets Arthur, an older, married colleague. Intoxicated by the promise of ordinary happiness he represents, Hera falls headlong into a workplace romance that everyone, including her, knows is doomed to fail.
There were – of course – moments Hera annoyed the crap out of me. For much of the novel Arthur doesn’t really talk about leaving his wife. Not seriously. He just ‘wishes’ he could be with Hera.
For Hera, Arthur appears at a time when she’s struggling with her identity and her life. She’s finally got a ‘real’ job but feels she’s settled for a life she wasn’t expecting. She talks about having great potential in school but being directionless. Arthur offers her a sense of purpose, of direction and she takes it.
I have felt flat for a lot of my life. My natural vibrancy was lost somewhere around year eight, I think, if I had to timestamp it. Generally, I feel like I am walking in a straight line through fog and I just have to keep going – not because I have any expectation that there’s something good on the horizon but because if I stop I’ll die. But occasionally – very very rarely – the atmosphere in the air around me will change. It will become crisp, clear, for a second, and I’ll have a feeling in my head that is like the clouds parting and for a moment I’ll sense this promise of promise. For a flash, I’ll just know, that there is more to come. pp 179-180
We only see Arthur through Hera’s first-person narrative, but her thoughts and perceptions seem honest. In many ways she’s isn’t kidding herself about what he’s promising but she’s hoping or trusting that things will work out in the end because it’s better than the alternative – which is not being with him at all.
I enjoyed this subtly delivered debut novel by Gray. She writes with humour and she doesn’t judge. She doesn’t condone or condemn Hera or Arthur or their behaviour. It’s only at the very end she suggests that anything but the whole truth, is – ultimately – a lie.
There’s a brief chapter at the beginning of this book that isn’t labelled as a prologue in which our narrator mentions being in love with a married man (during much of their twenties). I assumed at the time it was Hera, at some point in the future but wondered later if it was an introduction from Gray and some insight into her understanding of Hera’s behaviour.
Green Dot by Madeleine Gray was published by Allen & Unwin and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.