Green Dot by Madeleine Gray review – witty tale of obsessive love
Why is it that intelligent women anticipate their partners to abandon their spouses, even though there is abundant proof that the opposite is more probable? In her clever and sharp first work, Australian critic Madeleine Gray delves into this query, chronicling the inevitable progression of a relationship between a disillusioned millennial and her married, older superior.
The plot is not unique. That is the main idea. Other recent books that explore similar relationship dynamics are Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends, Imogen Crimp’s A Very Nice Girl, and Laura Warrell’s Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm. However, Green Dot stands out due to its narrator’s distinct voice, brutally honest self-reflection, and comical observations on the absurdities of being a young adult. This narrator is Hera: 24 years old, jaded, acutely aware of the stereotypes associated with her situation, and the inevitable outcome. But as she tells us, when you truly want someone, you take the risk, consequences be darned.
Instead of pursuing a career like her peers, she obtained three arts degrees and delayed entering adulthood. Currently residing in Sydney with her father and facing financial struggles, she reluctantly begins working as an online community moderator. Her attitude towards corporate work is one of disdain and she sees her involvement in “the system” as ridiculous.
The storyteller doesn’t need to be well-liked, but they should be engaging, and Hera uses her hindsight to tell her story of intense longing while criticizing her naive past self. She accurately points out the contrast between the expectations of education and the dullness of starting at the bottom in a job. Gray cleverly mocks the humiliations of working in an office at the lowest level: the strict hierarchy, pettiness, and meaningless gestures. These circumstances create a perfect breeding ground for feelings of hopelessness and complicated romantic relationships.
We trace Hera’s journey from flirting on instant messenger to going for drinks after work, from finding out that Arthur, who is in his forties, is married to deciding to pursue the relationship regardless. Hera is shocked by the intensity of her emotions, especially since she identified as a lesbian before meeting Arthur. She also enjoys the thrill of pretending to be a heterosexual girlfriend. Her focus narrows until she can only think about him – or the green dot that indicates he’s online. As the story progresses, it becomes uncomfortable to read about the sacrifices she makes for small amounts of his time and affection, as she clings to the idea of stability he represents.
However uncomfortable it may be, their relationship always feels believable. Hera views herself as a predator rather than a victim, and it is up to the reader to determine how much Arthur’s seniority plays a role in their power dynamic. While she is bold and confident, he is more reserved. She dresses in crop tops and Doc Martens, while he prefers cargo shorts and sunglasses from the store. She possesses more boldness: “He looks at me, as he has so many times before, like I hold all the answers.” She is the one who comforts his guilt and makes hotel reservations. The darkness of their relationship is balanced by the strong bonds and witty banter between Hera and her loyal friends, as well as with her father, a gay man who fought for custody of her.
The book contains references to popular culture, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Black Books, and Hera Lindsay Bird. It reflects the literature of the current digital age, shaped by Twitter. While some sentences may seem difficult with their use of subordinate clauses, Gray has a talent for imitating the rhythms, clichés, and buzzwords of modern language, as well as a knack for creating humorous anticlimaxes. For example, “Our task is simply to assign colors to profiles on a screen until we pass away.”
Despite its ironic and playful nature, Green Dot steers clear of nihilism and instead delves into the pursuit of love as a source of meaning. It powerfully portrays the ways in which one can lose their sense of self, morals, and self-respect in the pursuit of love, disregarding overwhelming evidence that points to a likely unfavorable outcome. “I can empathize with those who choose to destroy their lives,” declares Hera. “Given the choice between this or nothing, I would always choose to destroy everything else.”