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Top Shelf With Madeleine Gray

The Green Dot author on her love for Ali Smith, the book she thinks everyone should read, and her Irish phase

By Laura Brading

Madeleine Gray is the author Green Dot – a book so readable it forced its agent to leave a party with Mick Jagger just so she could finish it. It became the talk of the London Book Fair, was quickly sold into multiple territories, and had film rights secured before it was even released.

About the joys and indignities of coming into adulthood against the pitfalls of the twenty-first century; and about the winding, torturous and often very funny journey we take in deciding who we are and who we want to be, Green Dot is as droll and daring as it is relatable and profound.

If you’re partial to a sad girl novel with a side of millennial malaise, you will want to pick up a copy quick smart. I caught up with Madeleine to find out about her reading life.

An author whose books you will always read.
I read everything that Scottish author Ali Smith writes. I started doing Arts/Law at uni, and I hated the law component, and I read Ali Smith’s How to be Both for an English Literature course and just fell in love with her writing – so I immediately dropped out of Law and switched to English, and then proceeded to study and write about Ali Smith’s work in my honours thesis, my Master’s, and now my PhD. Smith is so extremely clever, so playful, and so joyous with language. Start with How to be Both or Like, and go from there. You’ll be hooked.


I swear I cry more reading books than I do in everyday life

A book that made you cry.
I swear I cry more reading books than I do in everyday life, so it’s a low bar for me. But one that always gets me is Hot Milk by Deborah Levy. Any book that has a complicated mother/daughter relationship always appeals to me, and this one is just so nuanced and awful and tender at the same time. The final few pages of this, I bawl.

A book you read in a single sitting.
You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwake Emezi is the perfect binge read. Emezi can write in any genre and they smash it, but this one is a deliciously gluttonous rom-com about a young woman who falls for her boyfriend’s father. It’s also about grief and rediscovering vitality – but for me, it’s the pure sexual tension that glues my eyes to the page. It is so hot and fun.

A witty, profound and painfully relatable debut novel exploring solitude, desire, and the allure of chasing something that promises nothing.

A book you think more people should read.
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker is a wonderful debut novel that did not get as much buzz as it deserves! It’s about two best friends who meet studying visual art at college, and then they become artistic collaborators, animating their own autobiographical films. It’s one of the best representations of female friendship charged with eroticism, and has some of the most compelling descriptions of the art-making process. It’s kind of like Patricia Lockwood’s Priestdaddy meets road-trip movie? I love it.

How do you choose what to read?
I get reading inspiration from everywhere – I see what my friends are reading, I read interviews with my favourite authors and see what books they love, I read book reviews on websites like Lithub and Electric Literature, and of course, I browse bookshops and scope out bookseller recommendations. Booksellers know what’s up.

At the moment I’m having an Irish phase, it doesn’t matter when it was written, the Irish know how to write.

Contemporary or classic?
Is it cheating to say both? I probably read more contemporary fiction but I’m always dipping into older stuff. I had a very long Henry James phase where I read all his work, and you can’t go past Austen or Eliot for plot. At the moment I’m having an Irish phase, it doesn’t matter when it was written, the Irish know how to write. John McGahern, Oscar Wilde, Niamh Campbell, Megan Nolan, I’m here for all of it.

Green Dot by Madeleine Gray, $32.99, Allen & Unwin, available now.


BY Laura Brading

Laura is part of the PRIMER team and the co-founder of WellRead

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