Madeleine Gray.

Allen and Unwin.

Rrp $32.99

This is an intriguing book written in a freewheeling style I’ve not encountered before probably because it has been specifically written for a generation of readers much younger than me.

It is a love story, with a slow, balanced build up to a compassionate exchange between an older man and a young woman, both relatively unused to subtle indications as to how either should proceed while needing to keep their love affair secret.

They work together as they don’t want their relationship to become office gossip. In order to achieve this subterfuge, they do the “modern” thing and text each other constantly with clever quips to keep in touch while at work, hence the title “green dot” which lights up their computer screens when they are texting each other.

He’s the boss of one section, she’s a new worker in an adjoining division. She’s a free spirit seeking to live a bohemian untethered existence with her friends, experiencing hangovers each weekend from heavy nights out, in order she tells herself, to let go of the dreary office work and routine she has forced herself to embrace.

He is a married man with a serious career as a journalist and a wife he’s been faithful to for 20 years.  The girl uses sex to relieve her boredom with different young men when she is not with him; he takes their coupling seriously and is determined not to hurt his wife by being careless.

They make a point of not prying into each other’s lives as they build trust and enjoy regular trysts in small hotel rooms that cater for amorous discreet short bookings during afternoons or early evenings.

The characters are very much grounded in what’s happening in the moment and it is spelt out beautifully by the internal dialogue our heroine has with herself.

Well educated, but unsure of what to do with herself, she is reluctant to tether herself to meaningless work and yet she knows she deliberately sabotages these interviews with HR people who are seeking workers who show commitment and enthusiasm.

She has three degrees, lives with her divorced father and is aware that time is running out on her student life as it is well past the time for her to become independent and earn money to support herself.

Her relationship with this handsome, older man who is obviously going through a midlife crisis, though something he would refute, gives her feelings of being “alive” and having purpose, even though in the back of her mind her friends have warned her she will probably end up getting hurt.

Who cares, she thinks, Scarlett O’Hara style. Tomorrow is another day, for now life is full of excitement for both of them as they enjoy their illicit liaison.

All delusions disappear over time and she reluctantly realises that blind love is not the answer to her youthful dreams, nor is self- sacrifice without pride in one’s self-worth a price worth paying.

In my time it was called growing-up emotionally. It’s a universal experience most of us have to face and author Madeleine Gray explores this through her strong- willed heroine.

This is an easy book to read, it pulls the reader through its short chapters, it’s explicit in the way it tackles the different feelings experienced by its principal characters and there are lots of swear words most young people tend to use freely these days.

This is a first novel for Madeleine Gray and it is an impressive debut, moving as she does from writing arts criticism and non-fiction for a number of local publications.

The author lives in Sydney and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Manchester, researching contemporary women’s autobiographical Liberty theory.

In contrast to her studies, she has made her novel appear lightweight reading which takes skill. The characters are very recognisable, they delve into some tricky moral issues and the illicit love affair is cleverly paced, designed to leave you wanting to know what happens next.

A book worth seeking out!

Sherry Stumm.

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